The Trust Pyramid

Building trust is a key component of personal and leadership effectiveness. It’s also increasingly important in business as we have already seen in this research here, and the cornerstone of building effective teams.

As we are sometimes asked in training whether there is a way or approach to build trust quickly, we thought a post on the subject was well overdue.

To help understand better how trust is developed, we introduce The Trust Pyramid…

The Trust Pyramid

When we consider the closeness or intimacy of our relationships, it’s sometimes helpful to do so with reference to a model to help conceptualise that.

The Trust Pyramid is one such model that we’d like to share here…

The Trust Pyramid explained

When we first meet people, our interactions may start with safe ‘ritual’ or generic conversation starters – such as discussions about the weather or traffic. And then, we might move onto observations of fact and perhaps even some ‘safe’ gossip.

These are the first two levels of the Trust Pyramid above, and while trust levels may not be low – they are also not necessarily high.

As we move up the Pyramid, we might also show more of our ‘selves’ – we might gradually begin to share or discover our opinions, ideas, and judgements on various subjects. Here, we move to the third level on the Pyramid.

Vulnerability and Risk

As we move up the Trust Pyramid, we are doing two things. We are taking risks and/or showing vulnerability.

This happens because as we become less ‘generic’ and more ‘special’ or willing to know ‘the self’, a gap may well open up – which in turn may lead to relational conflict.

Feelings and Emotions then come into play, and the relationship quickly moves onto a higher – emotional – level, which in turn can create volatility. Here’s where the ‘risk’ is.

Rites of passage

But that risk, and even the conflict, is almost an inevitable ‘rite of passage’ as we get to know each other better.

Few relationships have flourished without this risk and/or conflict, and it is part of the journey on the road to authenticity that we embrace this phase.

If we can do so while maintaining our relationship, we gradually enhance our understanding of each other. While this does not necessarily increase trust – it is an essential foundation for it.

The key to ascending The Trust Pyramid is to take small and practised risks – by moving up the Pyramid, and by being vulnerable by ‘showing yourself’ during those interactions.