What does it take to be trusted? Ask 100 people and you'll get 100 answers. The reason is that the concept of trust is complex; and whilst we are often clear about whom we trust (and don't trust), we're often much less clear about why. Are you ready to learn about three very critical elements of trust? Learn how to foster trust in your own relationships.

When working with clients on trust, many of whom work for corporations and are faced with issues of trust (or lack thereof) daily, understanding the three key elements of trust can be very helpful to them. My guess is they will also be helpful to you - first in enabling you to better distinguish specifically why you don't trust someone and second in helping you become more effective in building trust yourself (or repairing it when damaged).

To illustrate the inter-relationship between the three core elements of trust, picture this in your mind. Envision three circles drawn on a piece of paper all interlocking together in a Venn diagram so that each overlaps with each other and in the middle, is a space in which all three overlap. That space symbolizes the presence of all three elements of trust.

Whenever a person is perceived to act in a way that undermines trust in any of these three areas, trust overall is diminished. Let's take a look now at each one of these areas.

Competence: The element of competence is what I call 'domain specific' in that it depends on what area of expertise or skill you are assessing someone to be trustworthy in. For instance, I trust my husband implicitly; but I wouldn't trust him to give me a root canal. You may trust your spouse or a colleague to be sincere and reliable, but would you may not trust them enough to remove the dead tree from your backyard or do your tax return (you get the idea?). So the question you want to ask here is does this person have the ability, knowledge and resources to perform this specific task in this domain of expertise?

Reliability: Reliability is about whether you can count on someone to manage and honor their commitments; to do what they say they'll do when they say they'll do it. So you may trust someone to be competent at a particular task and sincere in their intention to do it, but their track record of unreliability - whether it is tardiness or sloppy work - keeps you from trusting them completely. The question to ask: Can I count on this person to keep their promises; to get the job done properly (the 'what') and by the agreed time frame (the 'when')?

Sincerity: Sincerity relates directly to our assessment of someone's character. Of all three elements of trust, sincerity is the most pivotal in our decision whether or not to trust someone. You may not necessarily care much whether the person cutting your hair is cheating on their tax return (or their spouse), but you would likely care quite a bit if it was your local minister, governor or CEO.

Sincerity is also the most difficult element to repair when damaged which explains why infidelity has a far greater impact on a marriage than a spouse who simply forgets their anniversary or why learning a friend has backstabbed you does more damage than if they are always just running late. The question to ask: Is this person genuine and authentic with a strong sense of integrity? Needless to say we look for this character trait first and foremost in our elected officials. After all, who wants a leader who is competent in administering the responsibilities of their office but is doing something dishonest while they're at it.

So, armed with new knowledge (and new competence!) in trust, how might you apply it in your relationships at work, with family members or friends? Of course, that's not to say that you aren't trustworthy right now, but take time to look at where you may have either inadvertently allowed trust to flat line through neglect or damaged it by your behavior. How might you build/restore trust if you were to:

* Develop skills to grow your competence in a particular area?

* Improve your punctuality?

* Share how you genuinely feel about an issue?

* Manage your commitments more effectively so that you get things done properly and on time?

* Apologize for offending someone (even an unintended)?

* Attempt to make amends for a wrongdoing that damaged trust?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Distrust is very expensive". The fact is, without trust, influence wanes, intimacy erodes, relationships crumble, careers derail, organizations fail to prosper (and ultimately, also crumble) and, in short, nothing much works. Wherever trust is missing, opportunity is lost - opportunity to prosper, to exert influence, to deepen intimacy, to enjoy harmony, to collaborate, to foster understanding... to succeed at the very things that matter to you.

You cannot force others to become more trustworthy, but you can become more worthy of trust yourself. By raising your own bar - through your words and actions - and being the change you want to see in others, you can ultimately create a more trusting environment around you. So no matter how full the trust accounts are in your relationships, it's never too late to work at building trust; and you can never work too hard at maintaining it.

Author's Bio: 

Margie Warrell is an expert on living with greater clarity, confidence and courage. Get Inspiration from her movie. Oh, wait! I almost forgot to tell you. Don't forget to swing on over and Get YOUR Treasure Chest of Free Resources to help you enjoy a more successful and rewarding life AND pick up her monthly LIVE BOLDLY! eNewsletter.