How Sharing Stories Can Build Trust

September 15, 2023

This blog post originally appeared in ARTT's Trust Issues newsletter on September 8, 2023. Sign up for our email newsletter to get updates in your inbox twice a month.

Stories of shared experience are a common way that people look to build trust. Almost too common; pretty much every business guru will tell you to "tell authentic stories to build trust in your brand," which, honestly, doesn't sound at all authentic. Every politician has a story they tell about their difficult upbringing, which often has only a loose association with the truth.

Still, done right this can be a powerful way to develop trust with others. As Peter Kim notes in How Trust Works: The Science of How Relationships Are Built, Broken, and Repaired, one big way to show that you are trustworthy is through competence. A personal story of your own experience dealing with a difficult situation that is relevant to the listener is a great way to connect.

This is how we describe sharing in the ARTT Guide:

To share is to something personal into a discussion. Specifically, sharing one’s own story is one way that people explain their reasoning through their own personal experience of navigating a difficult decision.

EXAMPLE: Even in digital spaces, telling stories about one’s own “health journey” can be an effective way to share information while also encouraging reflection.

GOALS: Sharing information with shared values in mind can be a way to build trust. Personal stories do this, but this is why we’re also reviewing literature around knowledge sharing. In addition, when sharing complicated information, methods around communicating uncertainty may also fall under the Share response mode.

What do you think? When is it appropriate to share personal stories online in your work.? What are the difficulties involved, and what are strategies to help? Let us know.