12 Trust-Destroyers, and How to Avoid Them

How do you become a trustworthy person? In part, by avoiding the following 12 trust-destroyers.

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Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor
Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series
5 min read
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Trust is perhaps the rarest, and almost certainly the most precious, of all currencies. It takes years to establish, yet it can be destroyed in mere minutes. Today, I’m finding it more and more difficult to willingly place my trust in others. I doubt I’m the only one. 

How do you become a trustworthy person? In part, by avoiding the following 12 trust-destroyers.  

1. Overselling 

Years ago, I had the opportunity to interview marketing genius Seth Godin for an article. When he took a quick glance at my company's website, he was kind enough to tell me pointblank, “Steve, you’re overselling. You don’t need to make such extreme claims. It doesn’t establish trust.”

That was difficult to stomach at the time, but he was absolutely right. After my business partner and I repositioned our value proposition, our company took off. 

2. The old “bait and switch” 

Expecting one thing and receiving another is a surefire way of extinguishing trust. When you are given the opportunity to educate others, don’t hold back. A decade ago, I was approached by publisher McGraw-Hill to write a book. This was a completely new endeavor for me, so I sought out the advice of my good friend Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. He told me, “Steve, whatever you do, make sure you write it like it’s your last book. Don’t cheat your audience.” 

Ten years later, One Simple Idea is more popular than ever. 

Related: 6 Ways to Build Strong Partnerships

3. Not owning up your mistakes

We all make mistakes. We’re all human! Sharing your mistakes with your audience establishes trust. People respond to vulnerability because it’s authentic and real. Don’t try to run from your mistakes. Instead, be courageous by willing to admit when you’ve erred. 

4. Not delivering the goods

Fundamentally, trust is established when you follow through on the promises you’ve made. This is how you create loyal customers. 

5. Failing to communicate

If, for whatever reason, you are not going to be able to follow through on a commitment you’ve made, be forthright about it. As quickly as possible, let everyone know that you need more time or must cancel. Don’t leave people hanging, or they will begin to doubt your trustworthiness.

6. Tearing down the competition

Pointing fingers at others may feel good in the moment, but it won’t help your business grow in the long-term. This strategy has a limited shelf life because people can see right through it. If you were actually doing the work, you’d have something else to talk about.

7. Not sharing the love

You cannot reach the top alone, and you definitely cannot stay there without supporting those who have helped you along the way. Make an effort to support, encourage, and celebrate the achievements and contributions of others — the light will shine back on you two-fold. Using this strategy, your posts on will reach a much larger audience.

Related: 3 Traits You Need to Inspire Trust In Your Company

8. Being late

When people are habitually late or explain that they “just don’t have time,” what they are actually telling you is that they just don’t care. Being on time shows people that you appreciate their time. It’s a sign of respect — and that respect is what establishes trust. 

9. Not doing your homework 

Failing to adequately prepare for a meeting or a pitch erases trust. You demonstrate that you cannot be trusted to spend the time or make an effort to get it right. For example, I recently watched an entrepreneur completely flub his pitch on Shark Tank by dramatically overinflating the value of his company. The numbers he shared didn’t add up, which of course the sharks called him out on immediately. 

Watching someone publicly lose the trust of potential investors sure makes for entertaining television. 

10. Going around someone

Oftentimes, there are procedures in place for a reason. When you violate these norms by going around someone, you demonstrate that you’re not to be trusted.  

11. Lying 

Telling the truth isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be downright painful in the short-term. But being willing to explain a tricky situation very clearly establishes long-term trust. People won’t always like it when you’re truthful, but they will respect you and trust you.

12. Forgetting to have empathy for others 

Things will go wrong. You will misinterpret the intentions of others. In so many situations, we are only concerned with our own problems. Caring about others is crucial for establishing trust. 

It’s not always about you. When you’re trying to build a solid relationship with someone new and for some reason your goes south, establish even more trust by using statements that begin with the word “I" — such as “I’m concerned” or “I’m wondering.” Don’t get angry or mad; that will destroy trust faster than ever. Instead, show concern.

Building trust is your best strategy for fruitful, long-lasting relationships in business and in life.

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