What You’ll Learn Today:

  • How to establish and build trust in your relationship. 
  • The three components that make up the Trust Triad (and why you need all three).
  • My top tips for building trust based on the Trust Triad.

Top Take-A-Ways:

Trust is something we all want and need. But, for something that’s so important in our lives, most people know surprisingly little about the components that make up trust. Most people tend to think they’re trusting their gut or their instincts when it comes to their relationships, but there’s really much more to it than that. 

Trust can actually be broken down into three main elements that I call the Trust Triad:  competency, integrity and goodwill.

I. Competency:
Competency in a relationship is huge. Does your partner do what they say they will successfully and efficiently? This is being competent. Do they follow through? Do they show up on time? Do you believe that they can do the things they promise or commit to? In other words, can they do the job of being your partner? 

II. Integrity:
Integrity is really about how honest you feel your partner is. Are they telling you something so you won’t get upset? Are they trying to manipulate you to get their way or avoid a conflict? Are they saying they feel one way, but you think they really feel another? Are they telling you outright lies consistently? 

III. Goodwill
The last factor, goodwill, is all about you believing that your partner has your best interest at heart and that they care about you as a person, not just the role you fulfill. We tend to build this side of the Trust Triad as we express compassion and empathy for our partner’s feelings. 

You’ve Gotta Have All Three

In relationships, you’re not always aware that trust is being built or undermined by all three of these components and this leads to problems, arguments and misunderstandings. 

When you’re not aware that all three of these factors create a trusting relationship, you tend to focus on one or two areas that you’re good at and ignore the others.

You need that trust to build because, over the course of your relationship, you will betray your partner. 

We all betray our partners in one way or another. As famed marriage expert John Gottman says, “Betrayal exists in every relationship. More often than not, the betrayals accumulate like small dents. Other times, they arrive like a sudden crash. In both cases, they present a unique opportunity for trust building.”

The small dents are things like:

  • Making a simple mistake
  • Not keeping a commitment
  • Forgetting a special event
  • Being late
  • A misunderstanding
  • Being interrupted or dismissed
  • Missing a cue that they’re hurting and need support
  • Inappropriate drug or alcohol use
  • Not meeting your expectations about something
  • Making a bad choice
  • Not remembering something special that was shared


Now that you know what goes into trust, let’s talk about the ways you build on your competency, integrity and goodwill. Here are my top tips for making those things shine bright. 

  • Mindful Listening (“What I heard you say was..” “Did you say …?” “What I hear you feel is…”).
  • Think about feelings, not only content
  • Don’t give suggestions, advice or criticize
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Asking questions instead of making statements
  • Provide feedback only when asked and give it in the Growth Mindset (emphasizing person’s efforts instead of labeling their traits)
  • Hold intention of resolving conflicts and creating solutions and options
  • Be sincere
  • Practice giving your partner the benefit of the doubt
  • Keep your promises – every time you say yes to something, think of it as a promise and make it happen
  • Don’t judge – unconditional love is fine but unconditional acceptance is the key to the kingdom
  • Have their back in public, discuss in private
  • Don’t minimize or deny your partner’s hurt or experience with something 
  • If you apologize, make it real. Don’t say: “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I didn’t mean or intend to hurt you.” Instead, say how you see them feel and, if you want, you can add how it makes you feel to see it. “It’s killing me to see how much pain you’re in and to know I had anything to do with that.” “It’s so hard for me to see you hurting like this.” If your partner doesn’t see a feeling response, they’ll think you don’t “get it” and don’t understand either what you did, what happened, or how they feel, and this creates disconnection and distrust. 

Here’s your trust challenge. Identify where you’re weak or challenged with the Trust Triad. Do you have trouble with competency, integrity or goodwill? Focus on that one thing for the next week. Use the tools that apply to make yourself stronger in this area. I’d love to hear how you’re doing, so be sure to come back here and leave me a comment!

Resources and Links:

Anybody can have an incredible relationship with the right tools. Get started building a life and relationship you love with your FREE Communication Tool Kit For Couples.