Solving the Trust Equation

Mar 7, 2024

Trust is important in any relationship. In a professional context, trust is the glue that holds things together. Much more so than money, trust is the main currency for achieving long-term, mutually beneficial outcomes.

When we think of “trust” and what it means, we quickly realize it can encompass many things. The level of trust in a relationship dictates how we interpret what someone says, how we behave towards them, how openly we share information and whether we believe that their intentions are good.

But, what actually plays into being perceived as trustworthy?

To help answer this question, Charles H. Green developed the Trust Equation, a model that helps you understand the components that contribute to trust in your relationships. According to him, you can become more trustworthy by increasing your credibility, reliability, and intimacy while minimizing self-orientation.

Let’s visit the different aspects of the equation:


Credibility refers to being perceived as knowledgeable. It's about the words you speak and the expertise you bring to the table. Just imagine: Would you buy coaching from someone with no expertise on their subject? Or go above and beyond for a leader who doesn’t keep their word time again and again? Credibility is something that you have to earn by building character, being honest, developing expertise, and communicating clearly. It is about your credentials, but can just as much be affected by your body language, eye contact or how you phrase things.


Reliability indicates consistency in your actions and behavior. Others need to know that they can count on you. If you are sometimes punctual and sometimes late, working on this would lead to more consistently being on time. Consistency in those actions over time will lead to more trust. This can also include meeting deadlines, keeping promises, and maintaining a consistent quality of work.


Intimacy relates to the ability to create a close connection with others, making them feel comfortable and safe in sharing information and emotions. To increase intimacy in your professional relationships you can show empathy, listen actively, and respect confidentiality. Share personal things about yourself and invite personal sharing from others. Improving your intimacy skills is one of the best ways to improve your trustworthiness, it’ll help you build a deeper connection with your network.


Self-orientation indicates whether your focus is primarily on yourself or others. A lower self-orientation increases trust. By actively listening, being empathetic, and helping others, you can focus on their needs, rather than just your own interests. Read our article on the Rewards of Giving Freely for some inspiration on helping others without expecting immediate returns.

The challenge lies in balancing all four components e.g. an excessive self-orientation can diminish trust, even if one is highly credible and reliable. Also, different professional situations may require different emphasis on the components, e.g. in a crisis, reliability might be weighted more heavily than in day-to-day interactions.

Trust matters. It’s the result of your continuous actions, words and intentions. Showing your network that you are trustworthy will pay dividends. Work on improving your credibility, reliability, and intimacy and make sure you’re not only focused on yourself and your needs to be perceived as more trustworthy.

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