People decide to trust others every day, whether it be the babysitter watching your children or the money manager handling your retirement savings. Trust is the social lubricant that allows us to work with others in efficient, effective ways. Decisions to trust are unconsciously made every day, but most people don’t notice that they have made one until they start feeling vulnerable. This sense of vulnerability is a key component of trust, and influences our willingness to trust those around us.
Experts have been grappling for decades about the meaning of trust, and countless studies have been done to try to measure and understand it. An extensive review of the academic and social literature has led us to propose the following definition of trust:
Trust is the willingness to make yourself vulnerable when you could choose to do otherwise, and when you cannot be certain that the other person will act in your best interests.
Within this definition, the ideas of vulnerability, uncertainty and choice are key. They work together to form the bases of trust, and through their interaction, they determine whether a person will decide to trust another. Trust Unlimited has developed a model to explain this interaction, and to fit it into a more holistic understanding of how relationships work. This relational approach helps shed light on additional factors that affect trust relationships, such as emotions and perceived outcomes, and gives people the tools they need to actively improve the level of trust in their relationships.