Trust and integrity are two intertwined concepts that usually crop up when I start talking about influence. Although interconnected, they are different, and a clear understanding of them can help you to build influence more quickly. However, despite the temptation to dive into a philosophical debate, you can simplify these greatly and then get moving again with your influence.
Trust is the degree to which you can predict someone or something. When it comes to people, what you are assessing is how well you can predict what they will do or, how they will react, to a given situation. Will they do what they say they will do? Will they keep your secrets? Will they tell you the truth?
Integrity, on the other hand, is behaving in accordance with morals, ethics and values. Although there is a huge cultural overlay to this, basically it is internal and personal. Since values drive your behavioural decisions, integrity could be said to be how well you live according to your values.
In essence, the link between the two ideas is that the more strictly you adhere to a clear set of values, the more predictable (reliable) you become in the eyes of others. From my standpoint, there are three important observations:
- Values are rarely expressed clearly, or even understood by the individual, let alone the observer. Although you can make cultural assumptions (yes, natural stereotyping in action), the vast range of influences that play on your values make it very difficult to judge whether someone is living true to their values.
- Partly in consequence of the first point, and partly due to human nature, people tend to judge people based on their own values, not theirs. When they think someone lacks integrity, what they usually mean is that the observed behaviour doesn’t match with their own values. Tyrants are usually of extremely high integrity, enforcing their values on others — most people just don’t happen to agree with their values (see the Dangers of Integrity).
- People seem to regard trust as either yes or no rather than the kaleidoscopic range of colour that it actually is. You may trust someone to keep your confidences, but you may not trust them if the information you have entrusted with them is dangerous to one of their friends. Yielding to the temptation to make sweeping generalisations can hinder the development of
Of course, the topics are much deeper than this, but here, as usual, we are looking for practical things you can do to increase your influence. It is particularly important to consider more advanced ways of building trust and also, getting to know how trust builds within a relationship. Both of these can improve the quality and speed of trust in your relationships.
Returning to the points above, the implications are…
- The more clearly you understand your own values, the more clearly you can live by them and also express them to others.
- This enhanced awareness will make it easier to make value comparisons with others and learn how stakeholder behaviour could be influenced by those values — put another way, this helps to build a more discerning eye towards trustworthiness.
- Appreciating and accepting the diversity of beliefs and values can unlock relationships and help you to engage with people more effectively.
- Defining what you can and cannot trust others with will enable you to work with greater certainty and more safely.
- Reflecting trustability back on your own behaviour will give you opportunities to enhance trust in your relationships — it can make you more predictable.
However, beware, lest you become too predictable and, therefore, boring. A judicious amount of unpredictability is delightfully engaging, is it not?
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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