Trust often seems like a black or white concept: we either have it or we don’t. Some people we let into our close circle and others we keep at arm’s length. Some people we trust immediately and others we feel more closed off around. According to trust expert Darryl Stickel, “Trust is often treated like an old-time light switch, either off or on. But trust is more like a spectrum.”
Darryl Stickel wrote his doctoral thesis on building trust in hostile environments. Unlike other models, Darryl’s research has practical applications. It has been used to help families and individuals, organizations, telecom and tech industries and even the Canadian Armed Forces when working to develop trust with locals in Afghanistan.
Darryl’s model looks at three characteristics or ‘levers’ that indicate trust: benevolence, integrity, and ability. He calls them levers because as we get better at building trust, we learn how and when to pull them. Darryl’s model also looks at important variables like context and vulnerability. Darryl explains, “Adding vulnerability allows us to talk about depth of relationship. I’m willing to be more vulnerable with someone I am closer to.”
While the levers are not a new invention, applying them to our lives is a new concept. Darryl explains, “When I say, “Benevolence is a good thing,” everyone nods their heads. But how do we show it? How do we make it land?”
In many settings, but particularly professional ones, ability outshines the other two levers. “People often focus solely on ability, do you have the capacity to do what you say you’re going to do?” Darryl explains, “At an interview, say, employers want to know your metrics, how many clients you had, or how much revenue you created for the company. But benevolence and integrity are just as, if not more, important.”
Integrity means we follow through on our promises. But it also means that our actions align with our values, or that a company acts according to its values or mission.
Unfortunately, integrity and benevolence are hard to measure. There are no metrics to show how often you acted kindly at your last job, or how many promises you kept in your last relationship. Furthermore, we often have a hard time showing benevolence.
Benevolence, or kindness, is the belief that someone is working in our best interest. Benevolence looks like compassion and empathy, as well as opportunities to grow and develop. In a professional setting, a benevolent employer may start training an employee for a different position that can further their career or highlight their skills. In a personal relationship, a benevolent partner would value the things that matter to us.
“Let’s say you see me at a restaurant and I’m about to have this big decadent dessert, and you go “Oh, Darryl, you’re not going to eat that are you?” You can have good intentions, you know that it’s not good for me or my health. But it doesn’t land that way.” A person’s genuine concern for our wellbeing can feel like an attack, even if they have good intentions. We might become defensive and lose trust.
“Trust begins with kindness,” Darryl explains. “But we have to include the other person in the conversation.”
If you are interested in learning more about Darryl and his incredible research on building trust in hostile environments, check out his consulting firm, Trust Unlimited. Be sure to check out his Director of Goodness (DOG), Drake! Darryl also has a new book coming out in June 2022 called Building Trust: Exceptional Leadership in an Uncertain World. By attending our event, you will be entered to win a copy!