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Introvert Superpower #3: Trustworthiness
The third post in a series on introvert strengths, this time discussing trustworthiness.
When I once asked several hundred self-identified introverts what advantages they felt came with their personality, the two characteristics named most often were creativity and good listening. Coming in third in this survey was trustworthiness.
Trustworthiness has two levels. At the level of perception, the question is whether others just encountering you are inclined to believe you’re honest, reliable, well-meaning, consistent and capable. At a deeper level, such perceptions might prove either valid or unfounded. Most of us have had the experience of trusting someone who disappoints us by turning out to have serious character flaws or by not delivering what they promised. Whether someone truly deserves our trust emerges only with time.
In the marketing consulting I used to do, trustworthiness often came up because my clients were solo practitioners or small business owners lacking the familiar name or resources of big companies. It was crucial for these clients to provide evidence to potential customers that they deserved their trust. I often worked with them on credibility boosters such as in-depth bios, convincing descriptions of their unique capabilities, testimonials from long-time customers, and media coverage. Yet apart from those kinds of elements, clients who delivered their service in person or virtually one-on-one often felt that their personality naturally helped them come across as trustworthy.
And trust matters. In a 2023 survey by PwC (also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers), more than 90 percent of business executives, employees and consumers agreed that trust is essential for success. Consumers in the survey said that when a negative experience caused them to lose trust in a company, 63 percent of the time they ended their relationship with the firm.
Trust can’t be taken for granted. In relation to everyday personal interactions, a 2018 Pew Research Center study found that barely more than half of American adults said that generally speaking, most people can be trusted. In a 2022 World Values Survey, 60 percent of respondents in Norway and Sweden thought most people can be trusted, while that number sank to less than 10 percent in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.
Let’s consider why introverts might see ourselves and be seen as trustworthy and why this might give us an edge in business and in personal relationships.
Six factors contributing to introverts’ trustworthiness
Here are some of the factors that play a role in introverts’ aura of trustworthiness.
1. On-target speech. Introverts aren’t usually bubbling over with weather chitchat, long preambles about the local sports news or irrelevant jokes. Instead of trying hard to be likeable, we get to the point. Recipients of this directness get an impression of solidity that inspires trust. Along these lines, researchers in the Netherlands discovered that whereas extroverts tend to make vague, general statements when they speak, often going beyond the situation at hand, introverts tend to be more precise, noting more details. The introverts’ communication style makes them more believable, the researchers said. Believability is just one step short of trustworthiness.
2. Monotasking. Introverts prefer to focus on one thing at a time. We multitask poorly. At best, we give more of ourselves to the task of the moment. We’re likely to seek a quiet place to talk and try to prevent distractions or interruptions. Since communication inevitably suffers when someone is juggling three tasks at once, introverts come out ahead on this element. Paying attention increases our perceived trustworthiness.
3. Respect for confidences. Because we don’t talk just to be talking, introverts are better at zipping our lips when it comes to others’ personal affairs. Numerous times since I moved to a small town I’ve witnessed some neighbors spilling the beans about others in the community so they will appear more clued-in and thus more important. Introverts’ yen for privacy and our tendency to take in more information than we give out play into this, too. Nonverbally and verbally, introverts show that we know how to keep inside what we’ve been told. That’s definitely a component of trustworthiness.
4. A humble manner. Instead of loud “I’m the best” boastfulness or over-the-top promises, introverts usually present ourselves with a modest air of competence. Granted, some customers gravitate to the braggarts, attracted by greed or hope. The founder of a martial arts school once asked me for advice because he felt a competing school was making false claims about its teaching results. He shouldn’t respond in kind or complain publicly about the competitor’s hype, I advised. Rather, he should educate potential customers with facts, let his students describe their actual results and understand that the down-to-earth, no-apologies approach that feels more authentic for introverts has the appeal of trustworthiness.
5. Good listening. I discussed this in my post on introvert superpower #2. When people feel heard, it brings about appreciation, gratitude and trust. “Listening is the first step in making people feel valued,” notes Rebecca Shafir in The Zen of Listening. “Mindful listening helps us better understand the how and why of their views.” Hence, someone who listens well has laid down an important precursor of trust.
6. Steadiness. You rarely see introverts bouncing around with excitement, hogging a spotlight with drama or running off on a sudden impulse. Our more measured demeanor gives the impression that we can be counted on from one moment to the next and from one month to the next. Introverts are biologically built to prefer less stimulating environments and to need respite after extended social interaction. When we’re in our element, such as a private office with a door or a quiet alcove in a restaurant, we radiate a calm, even vibe that reassures the other person that we’re dependable.
Trustworthiness has the peculiarity that you can’t credibly claim it about yourself. After all, when someone says outright, “Listen, you can trust me,” that usually signals that you can’t! Trustworthiness is for others to feel, perceive and experience. And I agree with those who cited it in my survey that it can be a mighty introvert superpower.