What 5 Things Build Trust In A Relationship?

February 22nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

I spent most of my professional career trying to recruit foreign spies to work for the FBI. Foreign Intelligence Officers are trained to believe that FBI agents are not to be trusted because they are manipulative and greedy. 

Communication - 2 people

This stereotype can be a hard nut to crack. FBI Agents have to be masters in selling themselves and their product. The only way to do this is by building trust with the other individual.

And you know what? If I tried to fake it, it didn’t work.

Strengthening relationships is not just a priority for counterintelligence FBI agents who want to establish trust with the Targets of their investigations. You may need to develop trust with team members, competitors, and new clients—it is the most important factor in building relationships.

From my own background and experience, here are some key things you need to do in order to develop trust:

1. Work Hard To Understand The Goals And Priorities Of Others

I developed a genuine appreciation for the Target of my investigation. If I couldn’t, I walked away from the case—the Target deserved better from me.

Your greatest need may be to build stronger connections with competitors, or those who would rather see you fail than succeed. No matter your current relationship, let them know that their goals and priorities are important to you.

Mental toughness is controlling your emotions rather than letting your emotions control you—do not let anger, resentment, or jealousy interfere with your own goals and priorities—to win their trust!

TIP: Keep your friends close; keep your enemies even closer.

2. Never Lie About The Things That Matter

I approached my meetings with the Target as a collaboration of honest conversations. So, I never lied to the Target. I met him in true name and laid out the proposal in plain language. No tricks and no bait-and-switch.

When you look at someone as an object, or as good or bad to your career, trust cannot be built. Instead, try to be non-judgmental and understand:

  • Their objectives and goals
  • Why it is their objective or goal
  • What they are truly after
  • Where you can find common ground

TIP: To manage the constant flow of information, our brain is hardwired to make snap judgments about people and situations. You will need to intentionally choose to be non-judgmental as you build trust with others.

3. Never Succumb To The Temptation of Manipulation

I always believed my relationship with the Target would be long-term and beneficial to both of us.

Whenever a self-serving agenda becomes apparent, we know we’re being manipulated. When this happens, make an effort to understand why they feel the need to manipulate you rather than communicating with you in a more direct manner.

Maybe they don’t trust you?

TIP: Look for ways that you can help them think about other, more successful ways they can be successful in what they want to achieve. And then help them achieve their goal.

4. One Favor Deserves Another

I resisted the temptation to feel angry or put-upon when the Target started testing our relationship by asking for favors—especially ones that would help make him look good in some way.

The law of reciprocity says that when we do someone a favor, the other person will feel an obligation to reciprocate that favor at some point in the future. Over time, the need to reciprocate the interest, kindness, and effort that you’ve made on their behalf will pay off.

TIP: Trust is built faster and stronger when your agenda is not the first priority.

5. Get Rid Of The Ego

I treated the Target as an equal, and not as a second-class citizen even when I knew he was trying to steal classified U.S military documents.

It’s tempting to take the moral high ground, but I always made an effort to understand why they made the choices they had in life. As I listened to their answers, I answered non-judgmentally and followed up with questions that were not freighted with judgment. 

It means suspending the ego and the certainty of your rightness in the matter. If you make the conversations all about them, you are continually validating them as human beings.

William Shakespeare wrote this famous line—“Love all, trust few.” He had it right—trust only in the few who take a genuine interest in understanding your needs and wants. Trust is not an act.

TIP: Once people trust you, they will trust your message.

Whose message do you trust?


© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 


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6 Responses to “What 5 Things Build Trust In A Relationship?”

  1. Alli Polin says:

    What an exceptional view into your life in the FBI! Really insightful piece on developing trust from a place of authenticity. I’ve found that even when you can’t stand someone, if you’re willing to look at them with an intention to appreciate something, anything, it becomes possible.

    In one of my organizations there was a senior leader in our leadership team’s business all the time. She was aggressive, demanding and pushed all of her solutions. We always felt the presence of her hidden agenda. What turned around the relationship and opened the possibility of trust was two things 1) Understanding why she was doing what she was doing. She didn’t hate us, she was passionate about the business and really wanted to look good to the CEO. She had an agenda that mattered. 2) Instead of suffering through and talking behind her back we had an honest conversation with her and asked how we can work together and do more than be on the same team in name.

    Really terrific insights here that I’m looking forward to sharing!

    Thanks, LaRae!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      You’ve touched upon an important point, Alli—there is always something about everyone to appreciate.

      I love your example and thanks for sharing! Once you truly understood the senior leader’s goals and objectives, her behavior started to make more sense. You still might not agree with HOW she was executing those goals, but now you understood WHY…and sometimes that “why” is a huge insight into creating trust.

      I have learned that I don’t need to like people to develop a relationship of trust with them, but I do need to treat them as equals and try to understand their point of view.

  2. Karin Hurt says:

    I find trust in this world completely fascinating. How do you trust a spy who by very definition is concealing the truth from someone… and how do you trust the FBI who by nature are engaged in covert operations?

    I love all your points and agree with them, and yet am amazed by the degree of trust building that must need to take place in such scenes

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Thanks, Karin! All relationships with the Targets of our investigations had to be based on trust—ultimately. For the foriegn spy, they were putting their life (often, literally) in our hands.

      Of course, it was not blind trust—we vetted all information they gave us to make sure it wasn’t disinformation…and yet, it always came down to developing personal relationships with people.

      And trust is the basis for solid relationships…

  3. Excellent post, LaRae!

    Trust is so difficult to earn and can so easily be broken. I love your 5 points, especially #1- work hard to understand the goals and priorities of others. I find that when I take a genuine interest in people by asking them questions about their interests and passions, I can build a more meaningful and trusting relationship. Because I am honestly fascinated with people, I enjoy learning more about them and their lives. Caring and nurturing the people we connect with is a winning combination.

    Thanks for another inspiring post!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      I can see where you have an honest fascination with getting to know people and taking the time to invest in their thinking, Terri! It comes across in almost everything you do!

      I agree—caring and nurturing people we care about it a win-win combination!

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