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14 Behaviors That Foster Trust

14 Behaviors That Foster Trust

Kathryn Williams | DivineCaroline

Trust is an interesting concept. By the time you get to work in the morning, you may have chosen to trust or not trust a dozen people. When you turn on the weather channel, you are choosing to trust the meteorologist.

When you leave your jewelry on your dressing table, you do so because you trust the cleaning person who will come in the afternoon. When you count your change at the deli, you are choosing to not trust the cashier. Even spending money requires trusting that the otherwise worthless rectangle of green material in your hand has value.

Trust is what keeps our society functioning. Evolutionarily speaking, we must trust to survive. But it can be a slippery thing. What makes us trust people? And more curiously, what makes us trust some people but not others?

Expectation and Reciprocation

According to the “experts”—sociologists, psychologists, economists, political scientists—trust is based on expectation. To the degree you believe you can expect a certain response from someone, you trust him. To the degree you believe he will reciprocate at some point in the future in some (often undefined) way, you trust him. Of course, past experience—with the person in question or with others—will affect that confidence, but in the here and now, certain behaviors and visual cues can also influence if and how much you trust someone:

1. Familiarity. The more contact you have with someone, the more information you collect about him or her. The more information you have, the more confident you can be in your expectations.

2. Resemblance. If someone looks, dresses, or acts like you, you’re more likely to believe his or her actions and reactions will be similar to your own. A 2002 study at a Canadian university showed that people are more likely to trust someone whose facial features resemble theirs.

3. Consistency. The more someone behaves with consistency, the better you’re able to establish patterns and form expectations.

4. Punctuality. If someone is regularly on time, it not only signals consistency, but also general conscientiousness toward other people.

5. Flexibility. Social-exchange theorists have found that people are more likely to trust someone who does not try to explicitly negotiate or force a binding agreement. (Think of the last car salesman you encountered.)

6. Discretion. The ability to keep a secret and exercise tact will always inspire trust.

7. Transparency. The flip side of discretion is transparency. We want someone to keep our secrets, but not her own. Self-disclosure builds trust.

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