A while back I had the pleasure of spending time Jan Hill, a management consultant. She was facilitating a discussion in my team. One of the many topics that we talked about was Trust, a topic of keen interest to me. She said something that I thought was very profound. She turned trust into a math equation:

Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Social Orientation

If you think about it, these are the factors that you consider, maybe at the subconscious level, when determining how much trust you are willing to put into a person. Let’s look at each term briefly.

Credibilitydo you believe this person knows what he or she is doing or talking about? Does the person have the credentials or experience to back the talk? The more credibility you estimate a person to have, the more trust you are willing to extend to them, at least in that subject area.

ReliabilityDoes this person follow through? The person that agrees to deadlines but never follows through and meets those deadlines, we tend to not trust. The more I can depend on you, the more likely I am to trust you.

IntimacyI thought this was an interesting one: intimacy. How close are we? Knowing you very closely versus I just met you definitely has an impact on how much trust I will extend to you. And not just that. Intimacy goes to a whole other level. For example, say I have two friends, both of whom I have known since high school. But one of them I’ve shared deeper experiences with and have received the same. Most likely, I will give a lot more trust to that person because there is more intimacy between us. This also factors in to how we tend to trust people that are “just like me”. Last week I took a quick course from James Whittaker (see my blogs on James – and if you get the chance, you MUST attend The Art of Stage Presence that he offers!!). Among the million other hits out of the ballpark that he made, he touched on this point. Lecturers on presenting will advise you to make points to “connect” to the audience so they feel like you are one of them. James made one key distinction though. Be GENUINE. If you contrive your stories and points of connection in order to be seen as a “nice guy” then you will only connect with other “nice guys”.

Social OrientationThis was the mystery factor. What is social orientation? It’s the why. Why are you doing this? If you know someone is doing an action or taking a stand because they think it will get them further in their career, you will trust them less (or not at all). Whereas the person that takes a stand because they truly believe in it, or that it is the right thing to do, even if we don’t agree with the stance, we will tend to trust that person more.

Of course, there are tons of exceptions to these “rules”. They aren’t meant to be taken as 100% solid, unquestionable. But they do give us very good insight into some of the thought processes that go into assigning trust. And it’s simple. I thought this was brilliant and I wanted to share.

Thanks Jan!!



About lelandholmquest

After serving in the Navy as a Reactor Operator on fast attack submarines, I earned both a Bachelor's and Masters in Information Technology from American InterContinental University and am currently working on my doctorate. I have a beautiful wife and two of the sweetest daughters a man could ask for. And I work for the greatest company: Microsoft. At Microsoft I work on the knowledge management system for Microsoft Services: Campus on Office 365.
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