The A-Frame of Trust

I’ve had to do a fair bit of thinking about trust over the past couple of weeks.  It’s an issue that constantly raises its head quite a few times, but one that I have not really grappled with, or only in passing.  It’s obviously something incredibly important to successful relationships, working and social.

I like Dave Snowden’s view that trust is an emergent property of relationships – it develops through the actions and behaviours we observe of each other.  It is also an expectation that one can believe that another will be competent or hold their end of the bargain, etc.  So as an expectation  it has a future dimension, and as an emergent property it has a historical dimension.

But how do we build trust?  What are its elements?  Trust is like building a house, or more precisely, an A-frame house.  In the interests of alliteration (it’s easier sometimes to remember things that way), and along with a fellow co-designer (Ann whose name just happens to start with “A” as well!), we came up with the five items that make up the A-frame of Trust.

Adventure – trust requires someone to be vulnerable in some way, of being open to something that might affect them and of the possibility of being hurt or embarrassed. 

Agreement – trust requires an agreement between two or more people.  Trust can be lost when that agreement is broken.

Authenticity – trust develops when people act with integrity, are true to their word, and are authentic in their dealings.

Accountability – trust further develops when people understand that they will be held to account for their actions or inactions.

Apology – in order to restore trust, there needs to be understanding that trust has been broken, that there could either be fault or at a minimum a serious difference of perspective, that a conflict has arisen which is best overcome through an apology.

The arrangement of the five items in the A-Frame is intended.  Apology is the bridging device, Adventure and Accountability are the key supports, and agreement and authenticity help balance each other.

Thanks for Shawn at Anecdote for his interesting note on Trust which served as some inspiration. 


3 Responses to The A-Frame of Trust

  1. […] of Trust Revisited I’ve had a bit of a rethink of the structure of the A-Frame of Trust. This arose on reflection from a comment that I had made to a post by Jack Vinson on this […]


    Good educational approach to the analysis of “trust”. Yet this is College Psychology 101. We must weight that “Trust” is earned not granted!

    The behavioral science of such knowledge is NOT embodied in every human being. Trust is not a perspective or perceptional behavior but a moral value of our personal qualities which is only exercised by few in society.

    Therefore, De-fragmentation of “Trust” is not necessary as it is a simple cause and effect of our actions. This overview constitutes a hypothesis of a Trust Theory based on tentative communication skills.

    Like so, we speculate that we can place “Trust” in government, banks, family or loves ones to abide by such social rules, yet we mostly fail to meet the mark! So how can we trust the untrustee?
    Charles Del Campo

  3. Prakash subedi says:


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