The 7 components of trust – and where relationships often break down

Did you know that lack of trust is the reason why most people end their relationships?

Think back now: a marriage, a friendship, one of those long-standing family feuds or that colleague that can’t seem to do right by you.

The Relationships Surveys Indicators 2011 claims that among the top four causes of relationship breakdowns, lack of trust is the most common.

You know that this isn’t isolated to your personal relationships but to professional ones as well.

Synonymous with integrity, you know when trust isn’t there.

You’ll be less likely to open up to people or give them your time.

It may result in doing a half-assed job.

Why bother going all out when you don’t trust them to recompense or even acknowledge the effort?

A lack of trust fragments groups and, from a company-wide perspective, slows down or even prevents innovation.

Once it’s lost, we go, as stated by Dennis Jaffe, on an ‘internal strike’.

Conversely, when trust is there, there’s a willingness to go the extra mile.

You’ll make suggestions, knowing that you’ll be acknowledged, having faith in the endeavour to action them, if possible.  There’s more collaboration, kindness and a sense of community.

So, basically, trust makes life more pleasant, facilitates innovation, and creates certainty in uncertain circumstances.

But what is trust? Brené Brown notes seven elements that are both observable and measurable, wrapped up in the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G., and here they are:

The 7 Components of Trust

1. Boundaries – it’s clear what’s OK and not OK, both in your behaviour and that of others.

2. Reliability – you do what you say and say what you do. You’re not over-committing and then failing to deliver. Again, this extends to how others treat you. Do they consistently over-promise and under-deliver? Can you depend on them to uphold the quality of their work?

3. Accountability – holding people accountable and not blaming.  The difference between those two is more in intention than anything else.  With accountability, you need to find where the problem stems from so it can be corrected: it’s up to a leader to hold others to their agreements.  Blaming, on the other hand, is more concerned with reproaching and discrediting.  For example, you can blame the Project Manager for overlooking key steps but after you’ve probed further you may see that roles and responsibilities weren’t clear enough. If you’re accountable, you look to the root of the problem and get the outcome needed.

4. Vault – Brené Brown describes this as ‘letting secrets out the bag’. There’s relishing a good old gossip about someone, which we often do for connection, “using the stories of others as currency”.  But what do you do when that interaction’s over?  There’s that niggling discomfort that you could be the subject of someone else’s tittle tattle. Are you keeping confidences and do others keep yours?

5. Integrity – practising your values even if this causes “courage over comfort”. Choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast and easy. When leadership acts in a way that contradicts the values they preach, it’s like parents telling their children to “Stop F&$cking swearing.” You gotta walk the walk.

6. Non-judgement – we trust when we can ask for help without being judged, dismissed or derided. It helps teams bond and innovate. If you thought people were going to wave a verbal sh!t rod at you, you’d keep quiet.  It doesn’t mean agreeing with someone, though.  Here’s how to disagree with others  without diminishing their argument, or their very identity.

7. Generosity – this means ‘assuming positive intent’ although I see generosity also as ‘giving’. We often test trust in relationships through giving, valuing reciprocation as a confirmation that the investment was worthwhile.  If we take Brené Brown’s assumption of positive intent, it’s much easier to give feedback. For example, instead of assuming that your team member is being blocking projects simply because they’re stubborn, you check out your assumptions. Here’s how we opened out such assumptions with Customer Success Consultants at a SaaS company who attended a course on Influencing with me.

Here’s way of testing your assumptions about others:

Sketch out a mind map with the action in question in the central bubble.

Then allow yourself to brainstorm all the possible reasons behind it.

Here’s an example of someone who’s been blocking projects:

Once you take into account all these other possibilities, it’ll stop you going in with all guns blazing.

You’re more open to good intentions in the conversation, meaning that the counterpart will be likely to work with you instead of kicking back.


Ultimately, B.R.A.V.I.N.G. is about building relationships without crushing yourself and your integrity.

When there is no trust, standing alone is what we may need to do for a while.

As Brown states, “The danger is you fit in but you don’t belong to yourself anymore.”

Your Action Step

1. Scroll up to the definitions of trust.

2. Now note if there’s anything missing you need from others, such as establishing work boundaries.

3. Record any actions you feel can be taken to cement trust with that specific person or group.

4. Write down if there’s anything you can encourage from others.

Stuck? I help teams to work together with leadership, prospects, clients and colleagues. A large part of this is trust, but there’s all sorts of ways or wielding influence without being manipulative. You don’t need to sell yourself out either.

Contact me here regarding my individual and group training.

Is there anything specific that you think engenders trust?  Add it in the comments below ?


Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

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