Trustworthy Traits

How to present your best self at work.

I have been told that I am offensive at work and that I am “difficult to trust.” I have spent years ignoring this type of criticism by blaming the messengers, but recently my work has suffered and I am on “probation,” so to speak. Finally, the tipping point came when my wife, who is always supportive, said she agrees that the criticism is valid. She trusts me, but she says I come across crass and rude. So I need to make a change. What techniques can I use to build trust? I am honest, but somehow I send the wrong message.

This is certainly a difficult trait to admit humbly. I commend you. Without further information, I can only express a few very basic but important things to both do and to avoid. I will begin with what to avoid. Being perceived as crass often happens when you speak out of turn. No doubt it can also be a result of saying inappropriate things. It is fairly easy to avoid being crass by focusing on listening more and talking less. It is also wise to examine whether or not you use sarcasm. Sarcasm used as either humor or as a defense mechanism is often seen as crass. Sarcasm is also a huge factor in shaking trust, simply because it is designed to say something you don’t mean. For example, saying, “Hey, nice tie” in a sarcastic tone can cause your audience from that point forward to doubt sincere compliments.

Another very important thing to avoid in order to build trust is speaking poorly of people behind their backs. You may think of yourself as honest, but if you are willing to talk about people behind their backs, then the people you are with may assume that you would also speak poorly of them to others. It is a good and Christian principle to only speak positively about others unless you are required to review the work of your subordinates. In that case, negative comments are sometimes necessary — but only to the degree that they are used to produce a positive change in the person you are criticizing.

Now I will turn my attention to the positive ways to build trust. In your question, you mentioned that you are honest. This is the best thing you have going for yourself. Over time, people will recognize your honest track record and your crass behavior will be forgiven. Honesty in action can be described as integrity. To have integrity is to be solidly committed to honesty even during difficult times. Integrity is consistency, and it builds trust.

The next important step to take in building trust is to validate the concerns of the party you are communicating with. Tell them that you understand what they are trying to communicate. In other words, validate what they are saying by restating their point by humbly and sincerely asking, “Am I understanding you when I say you want (mean, believe, etc.)?”

The last and most important thing that I can recommend is calling upon the Holy Spirit to gift you with understanding. If you become an understanding person, you will become more self-aware. Self-awareness is truly a gift in building trust. This process will bring you blessings on many levels because it is rooted in humility. Humility is the antidote to pride and, therefore, the foundation of holiness.

Catholic author, consultant and motivational speaker Dave Durand is online at