Building Higher Trust 4 The Bilateral Nature of Trust

December 27, 2020

Trust between any two people goes in both directions. Rarely is the trust level exactly the same from one person to the other and vice versa.

Trust is also a highly dynamic condition. An activity or message may increase trust from A to B while simultaneously decreasing trust from B to A.

When two people are in a relationship, let’s say a marriage, the level of trust should be close in both directions. If one person has significantly lower trust in the other person for an extended period of time, the relationship is in real trouble.

Later in this series we will deal with the various ways trust is impacted and suggest ways to build higher trust consistently or repair damaged trust.

Lesson learned from a child

My daughter taught me a valuable lesson about trust when she was just four years old.

When I would come home from a trip across the country or to another continent, she would demand that I twirl her around and around. She kept me doing it until I would become so dizzy I could hardly stand.

I recall one time my wife walked into the kitchen and saw my condition. She asked, “How many martinis did you have on the plane?”

It was all very comical, but years later I realized that her trusting me to not drop her made it essential for me to not let her down.

If trust in one direction begets more trust in the reverse direction, we have a clue as to how we can build higher trust others have in us. Simply find some way to show more trust in them.

This is a simple philosophy of building higher trust that I call “The First Law of Trust.” Try it and you will see it really does work in most circumstances.

Bonus Video

Here is a short videoon the topic of Bilateral Trust

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014).

In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

Trust is Bilateral

June 27, 2015

small babies twins on parental hands isolated on white backgrounMy daughter taught me a vital lesson about trust when she was four years old. I used to travel a lot for work, and when I would come home exhausted from a week on the road, she would run up to me and shout “Daddy, Daddy, twirl me.”

I would grab hold of her little wrists being careful to not jerk them, and rotate backward lifting her off the ground. She would laugh and giggle as I rotated her around for 15 seconds, then when I set her down, she would always say “Again!”

So I would pick her up and do it all over. The lesson she taught me is that of all the times I twirled her, I hardly ever dropped her.

Because she was trusting me with her life, I was compelled to rise to that level of trustworthiness and protect her.

The lesson she taught me was that trust is bilateral. If we want to receive more trust in our lives, we need to find ways to show more trust in other people.

I have come to call this phenomenon “The First Law of Trust.”

If you are not happy with the level of trust you are seeing from other people, the first thing to do is find ways to show more trust in them.

That may seem illogical, but it actually works. Trust given to others reflects back to us every time.

A conundrum for leaders is that not all employees are trustworthy. Surely I am not recommending that a leader trust someone who has consistently shown that he or she is not capable of rising to an acceptable level of performance.

Of course not! You would not trust a young biology student to perform open heart surgery on you. Instead you can find some way to extend some measure of trust that the person can achieve. You might trust the biology student to complete his homework assignment tonight.

With reinforcement and shaping of behavior, I believe it is possible to make solid gains over time toward more trustworthy behavior. Enough assignments along with specific training in school and as an intern means eventually the young student can be trusted to perform surgery.

The exercise for today is to find several ways you can show higher trust in other people. Often very small gestures can make a big difference in starting a new momentum of trust between people.

For example, you might allow them to try something that previously you always did yourself. You don’t need to take reckless chances with the extension of trust, but do allow your creativity to think about what might be a reasonable way to show higher trust.

Extending more trust is one of the best ways to obtain more trust yourself.

Most people forget this simple rule. Even when it seems people cannot be trusted, if you find small ways to show more trust in them, they will inevitably rise up and become more trustworthy. Try it, and you will see great progress in your relationships.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

Stupid or Brilliant

May 13, 2012

I do a fun exercise in my leadership classes called “Stupid or Brilliant.” I go through a number of scenarios and specify an action that, on the surface, appears to be stupid. In each case, the loss of control would appear to be devastating from a risk point of view. I ask the participants to vote if the action was stupid or brilliant.

There are some examples where there is a documented correct answer, but most of the questions can lead to lively debate. Here is an example of a question with a real answer.

A doughnut street vendor at the base of a skyscraper in New York City noticed that the line was too long while people waited for him to make change. He was losing customers. He put out a box with change and small bills and a sign that read “In a hurry? Make your own change: I trust you!” At first glance, putting money out in trust in NYC would be stupid. People could just take the cash and go. Instead, the vendor found the strategy to be brilliant for three reasons:

1. The throughput of his vending operation increased by 50% because the line moved faster.

2. People started talking about his trust throughout the building, and they came out to buy from this honest vendor.

3. Many people would not even take the change. If their total came to $3.75, they would just put in a five dollar bill and walk away.

Other strategies for trusting people leave room for analysis. For example:

One consultant decided to charge only what the customer felt was appropriate after his work was done. He would leave the fee totally at the discretion of the people he was helping. This tactic defies negotiation logic because it ignores what is called the “call girl” principle of negotiation (the value of the service is greatly reduced after the service is rendered). Yet, this consultant generally did very well and often took away larger fees than he would have if he had negotiated a firm price before doing the work.

One organization was forced by market conditions to do some downsizing. They decided to allow the people being let go to continue to use their old office, computers, and cell phones for several months if they wanted while they looked for work elsewhere. Of course, there were a few stated rules about not being disruptive and honoring professional behaviors while on the premises, but other than that, the severed employees were treated the same as the ones retained. There was a risk, but the company found that in all but a few rare exceptions, the benefits far outweighed the risks.

You can carry blind trust to an extreme where a strategy is truly stupid. One example I give in my classes is this: The owner of a bar does not charge patrons per drink but asks each customer to keep track of what was consumed and pay at the end of the night. Obviously, most people vote for this as a “stupid” strategy. On the other hand, it would make an interesting experiment, because it may be possible that customers would pay more than required on average rather than pay less.

The point is that when we really do trust people to do the right thing, they often respond in ways that defy conventional wisdom. That logic is generally derived from a social norm based on a controlling philosophy. When given the chance, most people react with integrity and gratitude when we extend trust to them.

I have developed what I call the “First Law of Trust.” It is: “If you are unhappy with the level of trust others have toward you, the first corrective action is to find ways to extend trust more to them.” Trust is reciprocal in nature, so the best way to receive more trust is to give more. Try this technique with the people in your life, and you will see a dramatic increase in trust. Often what seems like an unwise risk to take will turn out to be rewarded by far greater loyalty than you can imagine.