The Four Things People May Mean When They Say “I Trust You”

When someone says “I trust you,” it feels great to hear, but what do they mean?

If it’s not entirely clear, rest assured that you’re not alone. The person speaking to you probably doesn’t know exactly what they mean.

That’s because trust isn’t one thing. It’s four. This is true whether the topic is others’ trust in you, or your trust in others.

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When you ask yourself, “Do I trust this person?” you can break it down into four questions:

  1. Do I trust that they are competent in the thing I want them to do?
  2. Do I trust that they are sincere when they make a commitment to doing it?
  3. Do I trust that they are reliable?
  4. Do I trust that they care for me and my interests?


A few examples:

  • Know anyone who is great at keeping promises, but you’re never sure if they’re being up front with you? “I trust you” means you can trust their reliability but not their sincerity.
  • How about someone who takes care of your interests–you always know that they’re doing their best to help you be successful–but half the work they do with you is mediocre? “I trust you” means you can trust their care but not their competence (in at least some areas of work).
  • How about a person who knows their job cold, cares about your success, and is 100% serious when he makes promises, yet is lousy at follow through? “I trust you” means you can trust their competence, care, and sincerity, but not their reliability.
The next time someone says, “I trust you,” ask them what they mean. And the next time you are sizing up someone else, consider all four dimensions of trust.