18 Easy Ways to Destroy Trust

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Princess Jasmine is in a perilous situation. For the second time in the 1992 movie, Aladdin is there, reaching out to her, stretching, straining, desperately trying to rescue her. But she hesitates, frightened.

Then he looks into her eyes and asks, “Do you trust me?”

In a perfect Disney moment, Jasmine knows the answer. Her fear dissolves as she takes Aladdin’s hand. She’s safe. We can breathe again.

“Do you trust me?” is a question that strikes at the heart of all relationships. To the extent our relationships are based on mutual trust, life is good.

How do we improve relationships? The simple answer is to increase the level of trust.

Survey Says!

We recently asked this simple question on my personal Facebook page: What has caused you to distrust a person?

To our surprise, we received 151 comments. Boiling down what people said gets us to 18 ways to destroy trust:

  • Talking behind my back about me
  • Exhibiting behaviors that don’t support their words
  • Refusing to accept accountability for their actions
  • Cheating to win at anything
  • Throwing someone “under the bus”
  • Saying I’m important but not showing it through deeds
  • Talking excessively about self
  • Asking no questions ever about my life
  • Talking trash/gossiping about others to me
  • Attempting to manipulate me through emotional highs/lows
  • Betraying me in any fashion
  • Abandoning me when I needed them most
  • Failing to follow through on promises
  • Blaming everyone else for their troubles
  • Engaging in excessive secretiveness
  • Showing no desire ever to apologize
  • Asking for advice often but never using it


The Big One — #18

Amazingly, more than half of our survey’s responses used words or phrases such as “half-truths,” “white lies,” “deception,” “spinning the message,” “dishonesty,” and “exaggeration.” It seems anything that has to do with not telling the truth was clearly the winning way to destroy trust.

So what’s the big one by far and away in a word? #18?


A State of Mind

Trust is essentially a state of mind, a belief. When I say, “I trust you,” what I’m really saying is, “I think I know you well enough to predict your behavior, and your behavior has proved trustworthy in the past. Therefore, I believe you’ll act in my best interests. I believe you won’t hurt me. I believe you’ll do your best not to let me down.”

Trust is a delicate state—one that’s hard to build and easy to shatter. All it takes is one hurt, one disappointment, one act that doesn’t fit our predictions, and we tend to pull back. The moment someone gets the feeling, “I don’t know you anymore,” trust is gone.

Defining Trust

Because we’re all about Personal Accountability at QBQ, Inc., this is our definition of trust:

Building another’s confidence in me through what I say and do.

This means if I want to build trust, I need to consider my actions and words and be accountable for their impact. It’s true, trust is a by-product, a result, of the things I say and do. Hence, I must ask the right questions or QBQs (brief tutorialsuch as, “What can I do to build trust?” and “How can I earn trust today?”

Like everything in life, building trusting relationships comes back to … me. So how do I build trust? Easy. Do the opposite of everything on the list above.

It’s just that simple!

For discussion:

What change must I make to build more trusting relationships? Please share!

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9 Responses

  1. A girl I dated in graduate school taught me a valuable lesson about trust. As a teaching assistant, I worked long hours at the University of Cincinnati. When I had free time, I enjoyed spending it with Joyce. Once, I forgot we had a date because I was tutoring a student long after our scheduled time; she forgave me. Once again, I forgot our date weeks later because I was focused on a school project; she forgave me. Weeks later, and the third time I forgot our date because time got away from me, I rushed over to Joyce’s house to ask her forgiveness. She calmly told me we were through. She could no longer trust me, and she left me with these words that became a life’s lesson for me, “You don’t forget what is important to you.” I was not reliable or trustworthy because I forgot what was important — her. Her words made me a better husband and father years later, not to mention a better employee and teacher. Trust is remembering what is important. Being trusted is being considered important.

  2. For about a year now, I have had trust issues with a teammate and have been asked by my manager to look past events that occurred prior to my manager being hired. My manager equates it to immaturity on my teammate’s fault, but trying to push someone out of a project that they are leading and not including them in emails or discussions are calculated choices showing disrespect and a strong prevalence towards opportunism, when our participation together is required. There have been other times when she has withheld information in an effort to avoid responsibility for a negative outcome or confrontation with other team members because of it. I have no other option than to keep working with her, since I love what I do and would prefer to stay there. I have pulled back, no longer associate with her outside of work and communicate with her only on work-related items. If I try to forgive her and move past it, she pulls something else that just strengthens my belief that these are personality traits that she will not ever change. Unfortunately, when I think about what can she do to make me trust her, my first thought is ” Ok, but for how long”?

  3. The two big trust destroyers that occurred to me are people making commitments they know they’re not gong to keep; and what my wife calls messing up a perfectly good apology with the word, “but.” Given those, I guess my must-dos are to be sure I’m going to keep a commitment before making it; and apologizing sincerely rather than as a tactic to avoid responsibility. How’s that for the flip side of QBQ?!?

  4. Having married late in life, I have socialized with wives of my husband’s close friends who are ladies I would have never wished to spend time with as a single person. There is one woman in particular who has kept me awake at night upset more than all other people in my life combined. As I read through your list, she hits almost 100% of these. After seven years of marriage and my husband seeing what truly goes on, he has told me I don’t need to attend social gatherings around these folks so I go only for a short period of time and then excuse myself. This past July I told her how she has made me feel all these years. She did not deny it and said she would make more of an effort, but I am not going back for more. It felt good to resolve it in my own heart and clear the air with her. Thank you John. QBQ has done more for me as an adult than any other training I have done in 30 years of employment. Truly thankful!

  5. A good colleague got a significant promotion not without some help & encouragement from me. She then attempted to keep our relationship at a similar level of which I was very sceptical it was possible.12 months on and i am being gently let down which is fair enough however she is attempting to muddy the waters for me whilst still expecting to be a casual confidante. We have a new boss and i get either no information or limited about often routine matters from her. Lately I have discovered some lying and things being said behind my back. In addition she seems to be courting the attention of colleagues that she has previously been highly wary of. She seems to be in a popularity contest with her male equivalent and doesn’t give me the impression she is very impressed with the new boss. I have stopped trusting her which saddens me but my respect for her professionalism is also starting to become eroded. Never perfect, i am finding myself magnifying her faults. We neither of us will be leaving our jobs anytime soon. I am distancing myself and taking the higher ground. Any thoughts?

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