Working Your Way Up The Trust Pyramid

Back in August 2017 in our “Building Trust – The Formula” post, we explored the Meister Trust Equation taken from the book, The Trusted Advisor.  This gives us a handy formula to help identify the various elements in building trust and how to maximize them.

Building trust is fundamental in any relationship, whether at work or in your personal life, so let’s take time to look at another model to help you understand to build and maintain trust in any relationship.

The Trust Pyramid


This model describing relationship levels was developed by Canadian psychologist, Eric Berne. In the model, Berne argues that we communicate or interact with different people at different levels.

We start at the ‘ritual’ level or getting acquainted.  This is basically the level of saying ‘Hi’, ‘How are you?’ and so on. Then we move up to sharing facts and information, business cards, names, job, background etc.  We then move up through to revealing and sharing our attitudes, ideas and beliefs. This level might include sharing our thoughts on the quality (or otherwise) of higher management, on the viability of the company’s strategy, or the wisdom of the HR Dept and so on. If both parties to a conversation are sharing attitudes and beliefs, it is (according to Berne) a sign of increased trust. When we trust someone even more, we are ready to share our feelings and emotions (for example: I’m very nervous about the up-coming reorganisation) and finally we get to intimacy or rapport where we are completely comfortable with each other and fully trust each other.

If you think about your relationships at work which are at the top of this pyramid they’re likely to be ones where you have high expectations.  The high performers.  People you can rely on to deliver.

Now think of an example of someone at work, maybe a colleague or a client, who is lower down on this pyramid.  What could you do to move that relationship up a notch or two?  High performing relationships tend to have high levels of trust so getting this lower relationship moved up will have a real tangible benefit.  Do you need to spend some time demonstrating your credibility or reliability?  Do you need to get to know them better, develop a higher level of intimacy?

Moving on up

As the Primal Scream song says, “I’m Movin’ On Up”!  Try to think about your relationships and where they are on the pyramid.  What could you do to move them on up?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


I accept the Privacy Policy