Your Intent – Are You Trustworthy?

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, family, organization, and nation; one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most successful business, the greatest friendship, the strongest reputation. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create incredible success and prosperity in every dimension of life 1. That one thing is trust; a simple yet very complex thing.

I have been struck by the influence of my intent on trust. In Stephen M. R. Covey’s book, “The Speed of Trust 2,” he describes intent as having three components.

• Motive is your reason for doing something. The motive that inspires the greatest trust is genuine caring.
• Agenda is what you intend to do or promote because of your motive. Seeking mutual benefit inspires the most trust.
• Behavior is the manifestation of motive and agenda. The behavior that creates and inspires trust is acting in the best interest of others. Your actions must support your words.

Fundamentally, intent is a matter of the heart. It’s something you can’t fake — at least not for long. But it is something you can definitely work to improve. If your intent is based on caring, contributing, seeking mutual benefit, or acting in the best interest of others, it will produce trust.

Have you noticed that we tend to judge ourselves by our intent while we tend to judge others by their behavior? Consider this, if you saw a man in a grocery store smack a child’s hand would you judge him as overly harsh or perhaps even abusive? What if you knew the child had a life-threatening allergy to peanut butter and she was reaching for a peanut butter cookie from the counter? We tend to judge the intent of others based on our own mental models and experience. Likewise, people often distrust us because of the conclusions they draw about what we do.

One way you can combat this tendency is to openly declare your intent. Expressing your agenda and motives can be very powerful, particularly if your behavior is being misinterpreted by others. Recently, I have had difficulty with my insurance broker. I believe his primary intent is to make money. Had he declared his intent as one of mutual benefit and backed that up with proactive behavior to support it, he might not have lost me as a client.

Take a moment to consider what steps you could take to better engage with others so they understand your motive. The very process of considering how to declare your intent will help you improve it.


1 Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust, CoveyLink, LLC., Free Press, October 2006 (paraphrased)
2 Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust, CoveyLink, LLC., Free Press, October 2006 (paraphrased)


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