Building trust

Building trust

Trust is the essential ingredient for successful teamwork. How can we avoid misunderstandings and build strong professional relationships?

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


Successful business requires collaboration and teamwork. For team relationships to work well, we need high levels of trust. But how we build trust can differ from person to person, culture to culture. Becoming aware of this can help us see how to improve trust with the people we work with.

When Valeria first met her international clients, she tried to bond with them by telling them about her family and her parenting style. She showed them photos of her children on her phone. Her clients felt that her behaviour was unprofessional and it was difficult for them to trust her.  

During a team-building exercise, employees at a British firm were asked to share some personal facts. Kelly wanted to make a good impression on her new colleagues. She talked about how she was the top student of her year at high school and how she won a scholarship to university. The following day her colleagues spoke to each other about how uncomfortable they felt about her boasting. 

On the first day of a course, trainer David aimed to reassure his new trainees that they were in good hands. He talked enthusiastically about the big corporations he had previously worked in and the famous clients he had trained. He mentioned the good feedback he'd received and showed the results he was able to provide for his clients. The participants on the training course found this information boring and irrelevant. They wanted him to begin the training and not waste time talking about his previous achievements.    

Why did this happen? 

There are many ways of building trust, and the approach we choose might depend on the relationship we are building, the culture we are used to and our personal preferences. However, if the methods we choose do not match the expectations of the people around us, it can lead to misunderstandings and negative assessments.

Let's consider different approaches to building trust. Author and speaker Richard Barrett suggests that there are two main components of trust: character and competence. One way of building trust is to show that we are caring, fair, open and honest human beings. In other words, we can build trust by showing our character. Another way to build trust is by letting others know that we are capable, experienced and have achieved excellent results. This way of building trust emphasises our competence. 

It can be a useful exercise to analyse specific work relationships in terms of the character/competence model. You might think about the type of trust your relationship has and the type of trust your relationship lacks, in order to see how you can develop. Many of us use both approaches, depending on the context. For example, in a job interview, we might focus on establishing trust by demonstrating our competence through work experience. When we are working within a team, we might prioritise showing our character to form close professional relationships. By becoming aware of the context and how our conversation partners are responding to our trust-building efforts, we can adapt the way we build trust to better suit them.

When working at new professional relationships, it is important to remember that there is no one correct way to build trust. Making quick judgements about the speaker, like Valeria's clients, Kelly's new colleagues and David's trainees did, could stop trust developing and damage our chances of forming positive relationships. Instead, if we assume the best intentions behind what is being said and are generous in our judgements of other people, we create positive conditions for building trust at work.

Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet82.36 KB
Average: 4.4 (17 votes)
Do you need to speak better English at work?
Learn to speak, read, write and understand English in a variety of work situations. Join thousands of learners from around the world who are making great progress with their English level with our online courses.

Submitted by Burak Sener on Mon, 10/01/2022 - 18:32


In my opinion, I can say that the way which is building trust is the character

Submitted by Wol26 on Wed, 10/11/2021 - 09:22


The thing is, it's about showing that your character is real and you are not faking it, like it or not, that's another subject, but you need to be clear and real and transparent and explicit in order to gain trust, if you change anything in you just to adapt, then you are faking it and that's wrong

Submitted by Rajuchy on Tue, 02/11/2021 - 08:20


There is no quick process to build trust. For time being, if we show our competence, capability, good manner to our authorities then it's very easy to achieve their trust.

Submitted by Carlos Escaliante on Mon, 01/11/2021 - 14:00


I think that trust is achieve with the time and showing for the others our compentencies and our values. It is not easy and fast to do so, however once it is done , and if it is for real it will last for long.

Submitted by mfuenmol on Wed, 20/10/2021 - 10:48


I think to build trust at work you should be yourself. Don't try to impress the others only try to be the person who you are. Trust takes time, it's a process, you have to be patient.

Submitted by Lilliam on Thu, 14/10/2021 - 13:55


I think it is quite important to show a character because we are not robots and we can not build trust and good relationships only with competences.

Profile picture for user Bignon

Submitted by Bignon on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 22:34

To build strong professional relationship, I prefer showing my competence about work. I don't like talking about my personal life or showing my character because I know that I'm not perfect and some people can easily and quickly make judgements about myself which I don't appreciate that much. I think if I were in a culture which request talking about myself I would try to do it.

Submitted by I am on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 15:27

In my personal experience, most efficient way is collaboration with colleagues and intensive collective work.

Submitted by senes19 on Sun, 28/06/2020 - 17:02

When i begin a new job, firstly I prefer to only observe my environment. I should learn what is the requirements and expectations expected from me. And then I try to close relationship with my colleagues. But I avoid explaining my Life all details. Instead of saying that I am very successful in any process or topic or problem solving , I would show this by doing.

Submitted by Ajat on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 13:06

For me to work hard and to prepare well in advance the work that we have is the best way of building trust at work. Clients and colleagues trust you when they feel that you are competent and helpful. And that simply by being professional and doing the best.