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Book Summary: Trust – Knowing When to Give It, When to Withhold It, How to Earn It, and How to Fix It When It Gets Broken

Trust (2023) is a sensitive and practical guide to this essential part of human relationships. It reveals the deep significance of trust as a factor in our lives and outlines the five essential elements for building and maintaining it.

What is your story with misplaced trust?

It is tempting to think that trust is simple, that we should be able to spot a lack of trustworthiness relatively easily. But we all have our stories about being burned.

When trust breaks down, so does our ability to move forward in life and in business.

In TURST, Dr, Henry Cloud will help you:

  • Determine who is trustworthy and who is not.
  • Identify and develop the attitudes, practices, and behaviours you need to become a trustworthy person for other people.
  • Run a business or organization that invites the trust of your customers and stakeholders.
  • Repair trust when it has been violated and broken, even when it feels broken beyond fixing.
  • protect yourself in the process of rebuilding trust that has been broken.

Book Summary: Trust - Knowing When to Give It, When to Withhold It, How to Earn It, and How to Fix It When It Gets Broken

Introduction: Learn the art of forging trust.

The Russian playwright Anton Chekov once said, “You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.” Trust is the foundation of nearly all our social relationships. Our businesses, governments, and justice systems run on trust; as do our families, friendships, and love lives.

But who should you trust? How can you get people to trust you? And how, for that matter, can you make yourself worthy of trust?

In this summary, you’ll learn about the five key elements needed for trust to flourish, whether that’s in your private or your public life. You’ll also learn how , when trust has been weakened, you can rebuild it and learn to trust again.

Trust holds life together

Trust is the bedrock of our lives. From the moment we’re born, we’re placed in the hands of caregivers we can’t help but trust completely. As we grow, our circle of trust expands to family, friends, and communities.

Studies show that people with higher levels of trust enjoy better physical health, greater overall happiness, and greater satisfaction with life. In business, trusted leaders are more effective and trusted brands are more successful and lucrative. Teams whose members trust each other consistently outperform their low-trust counterparts across a slew of metrics.

Even at the level of nations, interpersonal trust contributes to economic development, through increased investment and capital flows.

Okay, so we’ve established that trust is important on many levels. Let’s look at the five steps to building it.

Take baby steps toward trust

Picture this. A thief is cornered by police during a failed bank robbery. Panicked, he grabs a nearby child as a human shield to secure his escape. Police surround the bank and call in a hostage negotiator to resolve the situation.

Now imagine that hostage negotiator is you. You’re holding your phone and the hostage-taker is on the other end of the line. The stakes could hardly be higher.

What do you do? Do you convince the hostage-taker of the danger he faces, appealing to his sense of self-preservation? Or do you appeal to his conscience and ask for compassion for the child?

As it happens, the first step would be neither of these things. The first step is simply listening.

What’s your name? Can you tell me what happened? How are you feeling right now?

Hostage negotiators know that for someone to trust you enough to engage, they first need to feel that you see them; that you recognize who they are on some level. This is a bit counterintuitive. After all, a child’s life is in danger – and you’re supposed to focus on making the person responsible feel heard? And yet that’s where hostage negotiations typically begin.

Let’s see why this is the case. Professionals know that empathy and active listening are key skills in this kind of high-stakes situation. That’s because the first ingredient of trust is understanding. Your first job when building trust isn’t to persuade anyone, it’s to do your best to know them and empathize with them.

It’s baked into our psychology. When we feel recognized, something inside us softens. Feeling that we’ve been heard and understood is a prerequisite for us to start listening, in turn.

Conversely, if someone is too focused on themselves and their goals to even see what matters to us, an essential and viscerally-felt sense of trust is missing.

This applies to businesses and organizations as much as to individuals. Before you can sell something to customers, you first need to understand them – what their lives are like, what problems they have, and how they experience your product or service. Successful companies immerse themselves in the perspective of their customers, before giving them a hard sell.

After understanding, the second ingredient for trust is motive. Here, motive means keeping the other party’s best interests in mind; so, not just knowing about their perspective, but actually caring about their interests.

When we encounter someone new, it’s natural for us to wonder, What are their goals in this interaction? Are they considering my well-being, too? Sure, people can have their own self-interest and stick up for that, as well. But if we’re confident that someone is also keeping our best interests in mind – that they care about what happens to us – we can feel safe and lower our defenses.

So understanding and motive are our first two ingredients for building trust. Let’s look at the rest.

There are three more ingredients for trust

Let’s say you’re founding a startup. Searching for cofounders, you consider a dear friend you’ve known since childhood. Nobody understands you better than they do. You’ve been through it all together and they’ve always had your back.

So, as a friend, you trust them completely – but does that mean you trust them to go on this journey with you? Not necessarily.

The third ingredient of trust is ability. This is hardly a mystery. If you’re going to entrust someone with something important, it’s not enough that their heart is in the right place. You need to know they have the competence and ability to safeguard it – to get the job done, in this case.

Sometimes this is just about skills. If your best friend is a reclusive Luddite who’s never touched a computer and never had a bank account, they may not be the best choice of cofounder in your financial technology business.

On the other hand, skills aren’t everything. They also need to have the right personal traits and temperament. So the fourth ingredient of trust is character.

Your cofounder might have all the skills in the world, but if they lack crucial character traits like self-control or perseverance, you’ll have a hard time feeling safe running a business with them. It all depends on context. In order for you to trust a potential spouse, they may need other traits like flexibility or emotional intelligence.

The fifth trust factor isn’t rocket science – but you’d be surprised how often it’s neglected. This last ingredient for trust is track record. If you want to know how someone will behave in the future, their past behavior isn’t a bad place to look. Our experience shows us what we can expect – and those expectations live, not just in our heads, but deep in our bones.

Picture the house you grew up in; picture the layout. Think, for example, about the way the front door connected to the hallway, the hallway to the living room, and beyond that the kitchen. Barring major renovations, that layout was probably something that you could rely on implicitly. It’s something so consistent, so stable, you never need to give it thought. This is the powerful kind of certainty that a person with a solid track record can give you.

That’s not to say people can’t change – they can. But to really trust that change has occurred, a person needs to demonstrate it with their actions. That is, they need to start building a new track record.

Alright, those are the five ingredients for trust: understanding, motive, ability, character, and track record. If you want to show that you’re trustworthy, make sure the other party can check off all five. And the next time you’re recruiting job candidates or just going on a date, you know what to look for.

But of course, nothing’s certain in life. People make mistakes. So what if the worst happens and somebody close to you betrays your trust? Let’s look at how to move forward.

Rebuilding trust that’s been broken

As business magnate Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

We’ve seen how involved it is to build trusting relationships. And yet even more challenging is rebuilding trust once it’s been broken. Think about a spouse caught having an affair. This is trust-building in hard mode.

Success isn’t guaranteed, but it is possible. Let’s finish this summary by looking at the six steps to repairing trust once it’s been broken.

Let’s say you’re the one who has been betrayed. Before dealing with the other person, your first step is to start to heal. Betrayal can be deeply upsetting; it can undermine your whole sense of security and normality. Healing takes time and it can’t be rushed. So seek out friends you do still trust and ask for their support. Let them into your life and share your pain and vulnerability with them.

The second step is a hard one. It’s moving toward forgiveness. But remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean excusing someone’s behavior. In fact, without the recognition of a wrong, there can be no forgiveness.

Forgiveness can feel unfair. But remember, you don’t grant forgiveness because somebody deserves it. Forgiveness is a gift – a gift that you choose to give to someone who’s wronged you. It’s an act of grace from you to them. And yet forgiveness is also one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. It allows you to get the closure that you need to move on – to clear out the cobwebs and move forward with your life.

The third step to repairing trust is to consider what you actually want. What do you hope for, going forward? You may decide that the best choice for you is to simply part ways with the person who hurt you. That’s completely legitimate. But if you want to try and patch things up, you’re onto the next and fourth step.

That step is to see if reconciliation is possible. What exactly does that mean? Reconciliation is returning a relationship to good standing in some sense. And it’s only possible, both, when you forgive and when the other party takes genuine responsibility for their behavior. They’re not making excuses or denying the harm they caused. Instead, they’re repentant and remorseful for their actions. And critically, they cease any deception and “come clean” to you.

The next step toward trust is something you know about already. It’s assessing the five ingredients of trust we discussed earlier. Remember, those are: understanding, motive, ability, character, and track record. Now that the person has come clean, it’s important you keep evaluating them according to the five factors to make sure that your trust is warranted.

Finally, the last step in rebuilding trust is looking for evidence of genuine transformation. It’s not enough to know that a cheating spouse isn’t currently cheating again. You need to know it won’t happen ever again. So are they charting a course for change? Are they demonstrating transformation, day by day? You need to know that they have either become, or are in the process of becoming, the kind of person who wouldn’t repeat what they did. Remember that while forgiveness is a gift, trust must be earned.

Relationships can heal from even deep betrayals. If both sides really put in the work of repairing trust, a damaged relationship can end up even stronger than before.


Trust is the glue that holds your personal, family, and business relationships together. It’s essential you know how to cultivate it. Trust has five essential ingredients: understanding, motive, ability, character, and track record. When trust has been broken, follow the six steps outlined in this summary to find out if your trust can and should be repaired.

About the author

Dr. Henry Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert, clinical psychologist and New York Times bestselling author. His 45 books, including the iconic Boundaries, have sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide. He has an extensive executive coaching background and experience as a leadership consultant, devoting the majority of his time working with CEOs, leadership teams, and executives to improve performance, leadership skills and culture.


Sex, Relationships, Management, Leadership, Corporate Culture, Self Help, Nonfiction, Mental Health, Christian Living, Business, Self-Improvement, Personal Growth, Personal Transformation


New York Times bestselling author, psychologist, and leadership expert Henry Cloud equips us to understand and manage trust for successful relationships through five foundational aspects.

Trust is the fuel for all of life. We are wired biologically, neurologically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically to trust. Trust is the currency that drives every relationship, beginning with the foundational bond between infants and their mothers, extending to the trust networks that undergird every human endeavor – art, science, commerce – and binding together every relationship we have ever had or ever will have. Nothing in our world works without trust.

It is tempting to think that trust is simple, that we should be able to spot a lack of trustworthiness relatively easily. But we all have our stories about misplaced trust. We either missed clear or subtle warning signs or there just were not any warning signs to see. Everything looked good on the surface, and maybe it was. But we got burned anyway.

And sometimes we struggle to earn and keep the trust of those around us when trust bonds fail to form or are broken. When trust breaks down, so does our ability to move forward.

Dr. Cloud explores the five foundational aspects of trust that must be present for any relationship to function successfully and helps us to understand how to implement them. He also guides us through the difficult process of repairing trust when it has been violated and broken, even when restoring trust feels impossible.

Rich with wisdom drawn from decades of experience in clinical practice, business consulting and research, Trust is the ultimate resource for managing this most complex and fundamental of human bonds, allowing us to experience more fruitful and rewarding relationships in every area of our lives.


The most important and transformational book you will read this year, – John Maxwell, Leadership Export and New York Times bestselling author

We live in a skeptical culture where it’s normal to wonder whom to trust. Thankfully, Dr. Henry Cloud has written this timely, well-researched, and profoundly practical book. Whether you’re a leader searching for ways to gain trust from your team or a person hoping to rebuild trust after it’s broken, this book will give you deep insights, meaningful motivation, and relationship-changing tools to build and maintain lasting trust. – CRAIG GROESCHEL, Pastor and New York Times Bestselling Author

In a crazy world, Dr. Henry Cloud remains anchored in reason, truth, and grace. In this book, he takes on perhaps his most important topic yet, with the same practical wisdom and unforgettable stories his fans, like me, have come to love. But please don’t just read this book; get one for your closest friends and see what happens. – PATRICK LENCIONI, Author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Six Types of Working Genius

This book is vitally important for anyone who wants to have healthy relationships. If you’re hurting because someone has betrayed you, you’ll discover how to experience healing so you can trust again. And if you have good relationships, you’ll gain great insight about how to make them even stronger and better than ever. – JOYCE MEYER, Pastor and New York Times Bestselling Author

Dr. Henry Cloud has done it AGAIN. He has led us through Boundaries, Necessary Endings, Integrity and much more… now with Trust he has put his finger on the pulse of how business gets done and relationships flourish. Amazing must read!!! – DAVE RAMSEY, Eight-Time #1 Bestselling Author

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