What happened to the days when a business transaction was sealed by a handshake and one’s word? What did we do before employment contracts, confidentiality agreements, and loyalty pledges? True, these legal instruments serve to protect everyone’s interests but no amount of legal agreements can guarantee personal trustworthiness.
In the business world the word “trust” is tossed around in corporate mission statements and marketing campaigns like any other buzzwords in order to convince customers that their company is more honest than the next. But think about what trustworthiness means and what responsibilities it requires, it then takes on a deeper meaning. You can talk about trust, write about trust, sign agreements to trust, but they aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on unless all the parties involved can be counted upon to be trustworthy people.
For starters, besides staying on the right side of the law, are you a fundamentally trustworthy person? Most people can attest to their own trustworthiness yet they don’t trust others. There’s a sense of “I’m OK but you’re not OK.” Consider for a moment that you’re not OK. Do you ever make promises you can’t keep? Do you take shortcuts? Do you manipulate or withhold information to get what you want? Do you do rationalize unethical behavior to suit your needs or wants? Believe it or not, the area of trustworthiness falls closer to home than most people think.
The fact is, you may have opportunity to show your level of trustworthiness to everyone around you hundreds of times a day. Your character is constantly on display to the world without your being consciously aware of it. Making a promise to a coworker or customer is a test of your trustworthiness. Playing by the rules when it’s more profitable not to, is another test of trustworthiness.
Consider the following ingredients of trustworthiness:
Honesty: Without honesty there is no trust. It’s impossible. It can’t exist. Deception is the antithesis of trustworthiness The problem that most people face is that they allow themselves to practice “little deceptions” too often and don’t realize how they slowly erode one’s character and trustworthiness. For a trustworthy person, the little things do matter. He or she doesn’t exaggerate or twist the truth. When everyone else is aiming to please, the trustworthy person tells it like it is.
Integrity: A trustworthy person has integrity like a rock that is solid, firm, and unwavering. This is called having principles. Principles are the underlying rules or assumptions upon which one bases his or her moral code. They are not just feel-good slogans but are bedrock values. When those values are challenged, a trustworthy person has moral courage to stand upon principle. Integrity is about actions rather than just words. To a trustworthy person, a code of conduct actually has meaning and workplace ethics is connected to a deeply held set of personal values that permeate all aspects of life.
Keeping promises: When you think of someone who is trustworthy, you immediate think about the promises that person has made and kept. That’s how most people gauge trustworthiness. Of course, keeping promises is much more than keeping appointments and making your business goals. It means that your word is as good as gold. It shows your basic level of loyalty and fidelity to others. It communicates something significant and meaningful about how you value people and relationships.
Usually the biggest barrier to becoming a trustworthy person is ourselves. For whatever reason, we sabotage our best efforts because of greed, selfishness, lack of self-control, or insecurity. The biggest tragedy is that once we loose it, it is almost impossible to get it back. No amount of future promises can mend the broken one. The most solemn oath and pile of legally binding assurances do little to repair it. No bandage and quick fix is available. The only way to restore trust is to start over again by keeping one’s promises and rebuilding relationships one at a time.
Becoming a trustworthy person is within the reach of anyone. It is a powerful and essential character trait that can take you far in every kind of relationship you make. Trustworthiness starts with you, no matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what clothes you wear, your level of education, family, connections, or your wealth or popularity. It starts with the words you say, the everyday actions you do, and the promises you keep. You can’t buy it. You can’t pretend to have it. You have to prove it.