How to be trustworthy – here’s what we can all learn from the Matt Hancock scandal

Trust is hard to win and easy to lose, as Matt Hancock found out to his cost. Life coach Amana Walker offers her advice on winning (and keeping) people’s trust

Matt Hancock lost the trust of those closest to him, and the public (Graphic: Mark Hall / JPI)

You’ve decided: It’s the final straw.

You’ve given them chances to redeem themselves but enough is enough and you just don’t trust them anymore.

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When does that point come for you?

As a country, we’ve seen examples over the past 18 months coming from many people in the spotlight. including some MPs, whose behaviour or decision making has caused frustration in varying degrees. Covid has taken its toll in more ways than one, and breaking the rules, going behind our backs or believing they won’t get found out, is behaviour we’re not willing to ignore. We’ve come too far and expect better.

It’s difficult to trust when:

We were asked to stay at home, but then Dominic Cummings seemingly went for a drive to Barnard Castle.

We were unable to go on holiday, because Boris Johnson left the borders open, allowing for new Covid variants to come in and cause case numbers to rise.

We can’t hug a relative, but Matt Hancock can have a sneaky snog behind a door with someone. And she’s not family.

There have been people from the worlds of TV, sport and celebrity who have been forced to apologise because they’ve been caught out breaking the rules,.

And only because they’ve been caught out. The truth is, there are people everywhere who bend or break the rules

They may have their reasons why, but perception is everything, especially when you’re in the spotlight. And now, minds have been made up.

On a national scale, we could choose not to trust anything these people say anymore and do what the heck we like. And no doubt, some of you will.

But what about people closer to us - how tolerant are you then when you feel let down?

One thing I know for sure is that trust is a very personal matter, and we all measure trustworthiness using a different barometer.

You might give someone you love a second, third or fourth chance because you love them and think you know them. But with people you don’t know too well, it could be one let-down and then boom! It’s game over.

In fact, sometimes we even decide that we don’t trust a person based on how they look, or our perception of them. You just get a hunch, don’t you?

And yes, other people could think the same about you, so how can you make yourself more trustworthy?

Here are 3 ways:

1. Be upfront and honest

If you’ve done something wrong, own up.

Why hide it if the relationship is important to you? And no, you can’t have your cake and eat it - your partner won’t be happy if you’re having an affair.

You destroy the trust that they, your family and even friends have in you if you choose not to be honest. And be aware that Karma has a way of hitting back so if you think you can lie and get away with it, you won’t.

Whether you are in a position of power or whether it’s family or friends - just be honest (before you get caught out).

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2. Do what you say you’ll do

Keep your promises.

There’s nothing worse than listening to someone talking up the importance of sticking to the game plan, and not doing it themselves. You’ll have met people like this - they come from all walks of life.

These ‘do as I say not as a I do’ characters incite anger, they immediately lose respect and face ridicule long term for their double-crossing behaviour.

Reputation and trust take a while to build but can be shattered overnight. If you’re changing the rules, they should apply to everyone, not just you.

3. Be consistent

Keeping it going, even during the tough times, speaks volumes about you.

You are giving people more reasons to believe that you can be trusted long term, that you are reliable and that if you’re struggling or need help - you’ll say something.

When we put our trust in someone, we want the comfort of knowing they will be loyal, that they’ll do the right thing. The disappointment we feel when we’re let down hits us hard.

Yes, being consistent takes effort. And that’s why it builds trust.

Doing just one of the above is unlikely to build deep and meaningful trust. You need to do (at least) all three.

Having said all of that, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors (unless there’s a camera on them, Matt). So, are we too quick to judge?

Yes, I think sometimes we are, which is why listening to the story in full first is important; allow the person who has broken your trust the opportunity to explain.

We all make mistakes, and only you can decide if a person is worth forgiving and moving forward with (as I think Boris would rather have done with Matt) or whether you believe the breaking of trust is so severe, that the damage is irreparable. And in Matt’s case, for all the anger we might feel from a distance, I’m sure the families involved feel far worse.

Covid has taught us many lessons, and, courtesy of Matt Hancock, the importance of trust is the latest.

Be a trust builder, not a trust breaker.

Amana Walker is a performance coach who works with a range of business leaders and sports professionals. More info at www.amanawalker.com

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