Higher Education Innovation In Action

It’s All about Relationships – Relationships 102: Trust & Respect

Natalie Spooner, Sales Consultant May 11, 2017

I recently wrote about the importance of self-reflection, so I sat down to do just that and make sure I’m holding myself accountable. After all, I’m a stakeholder in my relationships so I need to do my part too. As I reflected on all the positive relationships in my life, I realized they share two things in common: trust and respect.

Trust and respect go together like milk and cookies… but what happens when someone burns the cookies or puts the empty milk carton back in the refrigerator? In line with my cookie analogy, we’ve all been burned before and it’s not always easy to clear the seared smell out of the air. Damage to the trust and respect you have in others and the trust they have for you can have long-lasting residual effects, but so can letting go of the past in an effort to move forward.

In this blog post, I’m exploring what trust and respect are all about, how to build a solid foundation for both, and how you can move forward when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Trust & Respect Basics

Trust is defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something,” whereas respect is defined as “the quality or state of being esteemed.” While we understand the meaning of these words, the true definition lies within the way we feel. Our emotion and intuition express a subjective impression on something that can be difficult to measure.

Both trust and respect take time to earn, so try not to rush the process. While you’re working to build the trust you have in others, they’re doing the same of you so be sure to inspire both trust and respect by allowing the time it takes to display your own character and capability. Accept the challenge of earning the trust and respect of others and remember to be consistent in your actions, be honest, honor your commitments, and practice good judgement.

Building the Foundation

The old adage of “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t go far in terms of building a solid foundation of trust and respect. If you want the trust and respect of others, and want them to reciprocate, you’d better practice what you preach. Take a look at the following guidelines I believe are necessary in building long-lasting, valuable relationships.

Take your Commitments Seriously

It’s just that easy. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, show up. If you assume responsibility for a project, make sure it gets done (and done well). If you expect others to work hard, be a good example. Show others you deserve their trust and respect by holding yourself accountable.

Practice Humility

Work hard in silence and let your hard work speak volumes. While you should be proud of your accomplishments, don’t brag about them. Instead, focus on praising others and their successes! It’s very rare that we complete a project without the help of others so when you’re praised for a job well done, be sure to give credit to others when credit is due (more to come on this later).

On the flipside, no one is perfect, so never make others feel badly with respect to areas of improvement. Offer up friendly advice or constructive criticism using yourself as an example. Don’t fret about showing others your own flaws; admitting your blunders reminds others it’s acceptable to make mistakes from time to time.

Above all, when you’re wrong, say so, and apologize wholeheartedly. Forgive others for their mistakes and the favor will likely be reciprocated.

Be Open-Minded

Show respect for other people’s opinions and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Never criticize what’s obviously important to others. Nothing shuts down mutual respect faster than making people feel badly about what they value.

Stand up for The Right Thing

Show your respect for others by behaving with integrity. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if that isn’t always the easy path. Displaying your respect for other individuals shows your friends, family, and peers that you care about the well-being of others and treat people fairly.

Repairing the Damage

Mutual trust and respect are the cornerstones to all successful relationships. When these essentials are absent, they’re replaced by anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear. It isn’t always easy to fix relationships that have been damaged due to lack of trust and respect, so patience and understanding on all fronts is critical. Just as the damage didn’t happen overnight, neither will the solution. Focus on these areas of improvement.

Talk Honestly

Rebuilding trust and respect must come from an honest place, so start with the truth. The truth can be liberating, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply a filter. Know when and when not to share. Ask yourself, “Is this information helpful in repairing our relationship or is it hurtful?”

Be Empathetic

Throughout history, has there ever been a time where attempting to see things from another’s point of view was a bad idea? Sincerely acknowledging a person’s experience exemplifies respect for their feelings and an attempt to connect. Don’t argue with others for feeling the way that they do – listen and put forth effort to understand.

Take Responsibility

If your previous behaviors lead others to mistrust or lose respect for you, admit your wrongdoing and apologize sincerely. Avoid becoming defensive or downplaying other’s feelings. If you’ve lost respect and trust for others due to their actions, let them know how you feel without placing blame. Calmly explain that you were hurt and ask them to understand where you’re coming from. When you make others feel understood or feel understood yourself, you’re more likely to keep calm, hear the other person out, and ultimately forgive. When all else fails, focus on the solution, not the toxic blame game.


Truly repairing a relationship means forgiving yourself and others easily. When someone else has wronged you but accepts responsibility, apologizes, and wants to reconcile, follow their lead in the right direction! Just as I discussed practicing humility above, one person is rarely responsible for the brunt of the work… the same applies here. It’s highly unlikely one person is responsible for the state of the relationship, so take responsibility for your own actions too. Focus on the positives about the person and look to the future in an effort to let go of the hurt or disappointment from the past.  


Whether it’s your best friend who trusts your advice, your boss who respects your opinion, or your own team members who look to you when things become unclear, exemplifying trust and respect for others makes others want to reciprocate. When all else fails, remember this: treat others as you’d like to be treated.

Relationships 101: Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
Relationships 201: Cohesive Words & Actions