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The RoC Trust Model

Explanations > Trust > The RoC Trust Model

Reliability | Honesty | Care | So what


The RoC Trust Model is a simple and useful model of how we trust. In particular when we interact with people we seek evidence to convince us and keep up convinced that they can be trusted.


A basic attribute we look for in others is that they are predictable, that we can forecast what they will do. When we know this, we can decide how to interact with them. Even reliability in lying is better than sometimes lying, because we know how to handle liars. Better, we want people who keep promises, who do what we ask of them, who we can leave alone and not keep checking up on them, because we know that they are reliable.

Reliability also needs focus and competence. It needs people who know how to go about their job, including when to say 'no' because taking on more could stop them from delivering on previous promises.


The second element of the RoC model is honesty. Yes, ok, 'o' is not 'H'. But the 'H' is silent and it is easier to remember 'RoC' (and this is why the 'o' is lower-case).

When we are deciding if we can trust people, we want to know if they tell the truth. First, we seek out lies, especially if they are unhelpful to us (violating the third element of care). Then we hope people will tell the whole truth, not withholding things from us. Even if they want to tell white lies to protect us, we sometimes would rather know.

Honesty also requires integrity, where the person does things simply because they are the right things to do. They have a sense of morality and have values that lead them to be honest.


Reliability and honesty are a great pair and few of us can claim to score highly in both of them, even as we seek these factors in other people. There is a third element we seek in others, which is care. It makes sense: few people would trust a person who we think does not care about us. Yet care is seldom mentioned when trust is discussed, perhaps because it has such a strong emotional content and contexts such as the workplace often try to be more clinical, even though none of us can completely avoid emotion (this would also make us untrustworthy when we could not care for others).

Care is a lot about motivation. A person who cares about another is strongly motivated to help them, including being reliable and honest. Care about others motivates us in two ways. Passive care is about 'do no harm', not actively seeking to do harm. Doctors have a 'do no harm' mandate, where they try first not to harm, and only then with this caveat, seeking to help. We show passive care when we avoid gossiping about other people and do not get in their way. Active care, on the other hand is going out of one's way to help others, for example criticizing others who gossip about the person in question and seeking ways to help out.

When people betray our trust, it is the fact that they seem not to care about us as much as we had thought which hurts us the most, and may well drive our actions in seeking retribution.

So what?

If you want others to trust you, make sure you are as reliable, honest and caring as you can be. Get to know the other person (this helps with care) and discover how important each of these are to them (listen to their stories of betrayal, for example). Make sure you do not over-promise. If you must say 'no', ensure they know this is not because you do not care.

See also

Values, Decisions, Relationships


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