Strictly speaking, trust is one of those things we build up over time. We put in the work of showing up consistently, being honest and reliable to earn somebody’s trust.
But – it sure would be nice to get it instantaneously. Off the top of my head, I can think of several situations where we’d want people to trust us immediately:
A job interview.
A first meeting with a client.
The first dinner with your boo’s parents.
Whatever the situation is, gaining someone’s trust in an instant is quite a skill. And like any skill, all it takes is the discipline to build the right habits.
Here are ten small habits to cultivate if you want people to instantly trust you:
1) Making eye contact
Let’s begin with the most basic requirement of making a connection – look the other person in the eye.
This one has been drummed into our heads pretty much since the beginning of time, but it’s always worth repeating. Eye contact shows confidence and sincerity.
There’s a pretty cool scientific explanation for why eye contact matters so much in building trust – it activates the mirror limbic system.
In practical terms, it means that when you meet a person’s eyes, the same neurons firing in your brain will also fire up in theirs.
The result: connection.
That’s why, if someone averts their gaze or has shifty eyes, it’s pretty hard to connect, much less trust them.
Take care not to go overboard, though. Too much eye contact can cross over from friendly to creepy real quickly.
2) Showing open body language
Proper eye contact is just one example of open body language. You can go beyond that and show openness and engagement in other ways.
- Relaxed posture
- Leaning slightly forward
- Keeping your arms and legs uncrossed
- Open palms
- Facing the person you’re talking to
And don’t forget to smile! A genuine smile is universally received as a sign that you’re friendly and open – and possibly someone trustworthy.
Now, take that openness to the next level and have the courage to be vulnerable…
3) Opening up
According to Dr. Anton Shcherbakov in PsychCentral, “Vulnerability is the glue that bonds individuals together in any sort of relationship.”
So, it makes sense that if you want to connect with others, you have to have the courage to open up.
You see, what this habit suggests is that you trust the person you’re talking to, enough to be yourself with them. And that’s how trust works – we tend to trust those who trust us.
I don’t mean to say you should go full steam and tell them all about your innermost conflicts and personal troubles. Vulnerability in a first meeting can be as simple as just being yourself – no false bravado, no swagger.
As shame researcher and vulnerability advocate Brené Brown said, “When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.”
That is, the opportunity to build real rapport.
4) Listening well
Now, opening up is well and good, but don’t forget that communication is two-way. It’s hard to trust someone who goes on and on in a monologue.
People like to feel heard and understood, and if you give them the space to do that, you’ll definitely earn points in the trust department.
They’ll see you as someone who truly cares and is interested in what they have to say. That you’re not someone overly concerned about the impression you’re making.
So, don’t just pretend you’re listening. Actively engage with what the other person is saying. Ask follow-up questions, nod, and react.
Trust me (pun intended), the other person will pick up on this and feel a lot more comfortable around you.
5) Showing up on time
This is a lesson I learned the hard way back when I was younger. Back then, I had an issue with time – I just couldn’t seem to get a good handle on it.
In fact, my best friend once called me “someone with no sense of time.” I’d show up late to dinners with friends and clock in late to work on the regular. It’s safe to say I was an irresponsible person.
And apparently, that’s what everyone else thought, too. I got passed up for a promotion because I had a reputation for being unreliable, never mind if the work I actually turned in was of great quality.
And when I finally met my then-boyfriend’s parents (where I was late, as usual), I didn’t make a favorable first impression.
Don’t make that same mistake. Believe in the power of punctuality to make people trust you instantly.
6) Being mindful of boundaries
Another habit that will make people trust you instantly is to be respectful of their boundaries.
We all have our own set of boundaries – physical, emotional, intellectual, and so on. It would be wise to tread lightly until you get a better grasp of other people’s limits.
For instance, certain topics might feel uncomfortable for some people. Some folks might need more personal space than others and would prefer not to be touched, not even a friendly pat on the back.
Being aware of these boundaries and respecting them is a quick route to gaining someone’s trust. It shows that you’re a considerate person who thinks of other people’s needs.
7) Matching the other person’s energy
This is one I’ve found so useful in getting people to trust me even on our first meeting. I’m not saying it will always work, as each person is different. But it has worked so well for me that I find it worth mentioning.
It’s a matter of tuning into the vibe of a conversation and acting accordingly.
Let’s say you meet a fellow who’s quiet and reserved. Do you think he’ll appreciate it if you come in loud and blazing like a firecracker?
I’m willing to bet that will get his back up. He might even feel a need to exit the conversation.
On the flip side, if you adjust your energy level to match his, you’ll find that the conversation will flow much more naturally.
He’ll feel more at ease if you speak in a calmer voice and if you have an overall low-key demeanor.
Why does this work? Because it sends the underlying message that you “get” the other person and want to keep them comfortable.
You don’t have to change your whole personality, though. It just takes a little more mindfulness, a little social savviness to make the other person feel comfortable even though you may have different temperaments.
8) Finding common ground
Let me ask you a question: if you wanted to have a house built, would you choose a contractor you found online, or one that a friend of yours knows?
Chances are, you’ll choose the latter, right? Because it’s just natural for us to trust people we have something in common with.
Put that principle to work if you want someone to trust you instantly. You might not have a mutual friend, but maybe you can find common ground in your interests or experiences.
I’ve seen this play out in my own life. When I meet someone new, and we discover we’re both into fountain pens, for instance, we just click right away and feel a sense of familiarity.
9) Give genuine compliments
This one’s a little tricky because it requires a little discretion. Compliments make us feel good, and we tend to feel warmly towards those who compliment us.
But it also runs the risk of feeling forced or superficial, especially if it’s done too often or in the wrong tone of voice.
Believe me, people can tell when you’re insincere.
The key here is authenticity. Don’t just throw out random compliments for the sake of it. That’s going to come across as ingratiating.
Instead, go for specifics. The more specific the compliment, the more genuine it will feel.
10) Being open to feedback
I once went out on a date with a guy who, at first glance, seemed okay. He had a warm smile and was perfectly friendly.
But when I innocently said, “I think this restaurant is a bit too noisy, don’t you?” he got super defensive. For me, it was a mere observation, but apparently, he took it as a criticism of his ability to choose a date venue.
That suddenly turned our date sour, and by the end of it, I decided there wouldn’t be a second one. I didn’t want to waste time on someone who took offense so lightly.
Plus, I felt like his reaction pointed to one other thing – that he wasn’t the type who was open to feedback.
Again, it comes back to openness. If you want people to trust you instantly, they need to see that you’re okay with listening to other people’s perspectives. That you have a sense of humility and flexibility.
Earning people’s trust instantly might sound like a tall order. But you know what? It all boils down to how trustworthy you really are, not just how trustworthy you come across.
What I mean to say is, if you truly have integrity, it will shine through. Generally, people can tell if someone’s being real.
So, don’t stress too much about trying to appear trustworthy. Instead, focus on actually being a person of integrity, and the rest will follow.