The Trust Equation

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Recently I have been reading through a very good book "The Trusted Advisor" and thought of sharing the good learnings from it.

T = (C + R + I ) /S

This is the trust equation offered by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford in their book " The Trusted Advisor". Actually all the four parameters defined in this equation has to do with the trustworthiness of words,actions,emotions and motives.

Here T = Trustworthiness , C= credibility , R = Reliability , I = Intimacy and S= self-orientation.

Credibility of words, Reliability of actions, Intimacy of emotions and self-orientation of motives.

Trust has multiple dimensions.A person can trust someone's expertise but distrust his motives (i.e.self-orientation). Similarly a person might trust someone's brilliance but dislike his/her style of dealing with (i.e. intimacy).

As stated by the authors in the book, winning trust requires someone to do well on all four dimensions i.e. C,R,I and S.These dimensions are discussed in brief below:

Credibility :This concept includes notions of both accuracy and completeness.Thus focusing on both rational and emotional part. Rational part includes checking the facts, logic and someone's experiences to assess whether one is accurate.Completeness is assesses emotionally.Thus accurate points to "believable" and completeness points to "honesty".

Credibility requires a moderate amount of time to establish.

Reliability : It is about whether someone thinks that a person is dependable and can be trusted to behave in consistent ways.It is based on judgement and the number of times a person has had interactions with someone. Judgments can be "borrowed" from someone, as in to check if a person is reliable or not, but it also changes once a person has interacted with the someone assessed on reliability.Reliability is action oriented i.e. it links words and deeds.A very good definition of reliability explained in one word is

Reliability is the repeated experience of links between promises and actions"


Reliability is the repeated experience of expectations fulfilled".

Intimacy :The most common failure in building trust is the lack of intimacy. If you are able to freely talk with anyone about the difficult agendas then that shows intimacy. As described by author in the book

The most common failure in building trust is the lack of intimacy".


Intimacy means emotional honesty but a person also needs to be careful and cautious to know how much information could be shared and up to which extent to a particular person.

Intimacy is about the emotional closeness concerning the issues at hand".

Self-orientation : It means to be more interested in yourself. It could be anything that keeps us focused on ourselves rather than on the person or people being served.As explained by the authors ,many clues are there to identify self-orientation, enlisted are few of them:

  • A tendency to relate someone or customer stories to themselves
  • A tendency to give answers quickly
  • A need to too quickly finish their sentences
  • Closed-ended questions.
  • Passive listening

There are many other clues to identify the pattern. Now how to overcome such behavior:

  • It is advisable to talk to the customer or person as a friend, be concerned for them,their well-being.
  • Try to make their concerns your concerns.
  • Be honest about your level of interest
  • Pay attention by interacting intensely, one-on-one.

Now the above trust equation could be used to assess the customer or person relationships.A new customer and for old customer the trustworthiness will differ.This insight can then be used to get insight into why it is so and what can be done for it.

Posted on: June 11, 2019 02:12 AM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Wow!! nice to know this and definitely helps in every aspect of life.

Very interesting article, thanks for sharing

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