The Importance of the Trust Equation

trust_equationpcaIn 2000, Harvard professors David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford published a book called “The Trusted Advisor”. In this book, they discussed research that they had conducted, which examined how businesses go about choosing their legal service providers. In the course of this research, they found that it was actually possible to create a mathematical equation that could accurately represent the factors involved in this decision-making process.  The equation created by the professors was as follows:

Credibilty + Reliability + Intimacy divided by Self-Interest

Maister, Green and Galford called this “the trust equation." Following the publication of their book in 2000, the trust equation rapidly became an influential model used within business development training.

The theory is that businesses rate potential lawyers with a metaphorical “score” based on the following factors:

Credibility - whether the lawyers appear to know what they are talking about;

Reliability - whether the lawyers do what they say they will; and

Intimacy - whether the lawyers understand the needs and interests of the client’s business.

Once the numbers for each of these factors are added together, the resulting score is then divided by another number, with this number representing the extent to which the lawyers were perceived to be acting in their own self-interest. Dividing the initial score by the self-interest number will give an overall score that shows how much the business is willing to trust the lawyers as advisers. Following on from this, the overall score also shows how likely it is that the business will engage those lawyers as advisers.

When the trust equation is applied to an understanding of personal communications training, it becomes clear where we need to place our focus. In the minds of others, undoubtedly, our reliability is often proved by our actions alone. However, credibility and perceived self-interest is often determined just as much by how we sound or look, as by what we say.

In Mehrabian terms, the non-verbal and tonal elements of the communication package become fundamental to gaining the other party’s trust. When we add the requirement for a high intimacy ‘score’ to the equation, it becomes paramount to have the ability to ask high-quality questions and to engage in real and active listening.

So, in conclusion, all of this demonstrates why PCA focuses so tirelessly on the ‘how’ of communication, rather than just the ‘what’ of communication. We realise that modern communicators must be given the specific tools necessary to take control of every aspect of their communication choices. This will increase their ability to achieve an invaluable high trust score overall, due to the application of the trust equation.

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