Asking for Trust

Nerd-to-English Book CoverNote: The following is an excerpt from my book, “Nerd-to-English: Your everyday Guide for Translating Your Business, Your Messages and Yourself,” available in print and digital editions at our online bookstore and ~ G

Asking for Trust

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher and classical philologist

I commonly see business cards, especially in the real estate markets, with a request for referrals printed on the back. Perhaps it is a nice reminder to folks, but I am curious about how well that works for people who typically have yet to earn the trust necessary for a sincere referral.

I believe asking for a referral or reference is asking for someone to not only trust you, but also to lend that trust to you so you can use it on others.

Whew. That’s a mighty big request, particularly if you don’t know someone well or have never done business with them before.

I also see people mention they “always appreciate referrals,” believing that’s a softer, less demanding way to request referrals. But it is still asking someone to lend his good name to someone else with no guarantee of how it might be used.

"My Reputation" on a business cardI think this asking-for-referral approach is interesting because it is commonly used in several business sectors. But I see little evidence of its effectiveness alone.

“Well, what’s the harm?” someone may say. To be honest, someone who has not earned my trust in his or her skills and effectiveness typically loses credibility with me by asking for a reference.

They want me to use my name to send business to someone I don’t know well and have little experience with? Huh? How about we just roll dice to decide on the value of my reputation? It would make about as much sense.

I’m all about speaking up and asking to close a deal. But a referral is not a deal. Unless someone can show me where I am wrong, I get the impression this approach is just another imitation strategy (“everyone else does it”), or perhaps following part of a recipe found in marketing articles or books.

I rarely see a great provider of any service or product who needs to ask for referrals.

When genuinely earned, trust and referrals flow automatically. Why? People want to tell about a great business experience in the same way they want to brag about finding a great new restaurant. It makes the “referrer” look smart for “finding” such a great resource. And then the referral is not only valuable, it is provided with delight and trust.

Great referrals, like trust, are earned. Have you earned any this week?


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at

© 2011 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.