Business Perspectives

To earn trust, move beyond your own definitions

Are you trustworthy?

Are you effectively earning the trust of your colleagues, family or constituency?

What does trust even mean?

Trust is experienced uniquely by different personality types. This has implications for how you interact with others, communicate, set up meetings, make decisions, manage your professional reputation, and how we set up our learning and work environments.

Trouble begins with the Golden Rule. One of the most dangerous things we can do is to project our definition of trust onto others by applying the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Trust is about behavior, intentions and delivery. We earn trust by our intentions, how we manifest those intentions, and the way in which we go about it. Your noble intention means little if it is conveyed in a way that others can’t “hear” or resonate with it.

The Process Communication Model (PCM, Kahler Communications Inc.), an internationally acclaimed framework for communicating with different personalities, identifies six distinct personality types, each with unique perceptual filters that determine what trust means for them. Here are tips for earning trust with each personality type in your world:


Thinkers are logical, organized and responsible. They experience the world through thoughts and prize data and information. Earn their trust by providing them with plenty of data, time frames and an outline of what you plan to do. Follow through on what you say you will do, and keep them apprised of pertinent information. They want to know if they can count on you to execute important steps in a timely manner.


Persisters are dedicated, conscientious and observant. They experience the world through beliefs and prize loyalty and commitment. Earn their trust by asking for their opinions, hearing their vision and sharing yours, and demonstrating your loyalty to the bigger picture. They want to know that you will follow through on your promises and commitments.


Members of this group are compassionate, sensitive and warm. They experience the world through their emotions and prize family and friendship. Earn their trust by listening to their feelings, showing you care about them as a person, and avoiding judgment. They want to know you like them for who they are and will support them emotionally when it matters.


Spontaneous, creative and playful, rebels experience the world through their reactions (likes and dislikes). They prize spontaneity and creativity. Earn their trust by being open to new ideas, encouraging trial and error, and avoid micromanaging or preaching at them about what they should or shouldn’t do. They want to know you accept them the way they are and that you will give them an open space to experiment and create.


Imaginers are reflective, imaginative and calm. They experience the world through their reflections and imagination, and they prize privacy and their own space. Earn their trust by telling them exactly what you want them to do, and leaving them alone to do it. They want to know that you won’t expect them to socialize with the Harmonizers or brainstorm with the Thinkers and Rebels, and that you will give them the space to imagine new possibilities.


Promoters are charming, adaptable and persuasive. They experience the world through action, and prize self-sufficiency and adaptability. Earn their trust by cutting to the chase, focusing on immediate action, and giving them mission-critical tasks. They want to know you can keep things moving and avoid getting bogged down in details.

If you want to earn trust, move beyond yourself and your own definitions. If your goal is to be trustworthy for the important people in your life, adapt your behavior and delivery so they appreciate your good intentions.

Trust begins with communication. If earning trust and being trustworthy are important, change the way you communicate.