How to Decide If You Can Trust Someone


There are times you instinctively know you should not trust someone. I have learned to trust my first gut reaction after getting in a business or personal relationship with someone I had second thoughts about only to be burned by them later. While I don’t think I can teach anyone how to develop an intuition on such matters, I can share some of the signs I look for in a person when I first meet them.  Here’s what I watch for:

How to decide if you can trust someone intuition

How they treat people whom they perceive “beneath” them. I watch closely the reaction to a restaurant server or an assistant when he or she messes up or fail to perform to the person in question’s standards. I remember one man who wanted to invest in one of my ventures yelling at a woman who served us the wrong beverage. It was an honest mistake. His reaction was clear enough to let me know I did not want to have this man as a partner.

How they treat animals. I know this sounds crazy.  You don’t have to be an animal lover, but people who are cruel to animals are usually even more so to humans. Stay far away from them. I once did not hire someone who joked about shooting the neighbor’s cat with a BB gun for fun.

Their business and personal history.  If the person you’re considering partnering with does not have business relationships that are long term that’s usually for a good reason: they have burned too many bridges and now you might be their next victim. Check their friendship network. If the important people in their life are all brand new, that should be a red flag as well.

How they talk about their previous relationships. If the he quickly talks negatively about his former boss, girlfriend, business partner, without much prodding, chances are you’re the next in line after your deal goes sour.

What’s important to them. Someone’s world view matters. A lot. If you are trying to align with someone whose priority, sensitivity and belief system is divergent from yours, think twice about it. Well, I’d go even further to say, just don’t do it. At one point I had people working for me who had great skills, but whose worldview were so different than mine that the longer we worked together, the more difficult our work environment became.

What do you look for as you are trying to figure someone out?

  • How they treat animals is totally not crazy. How they treat a server is usually a dead giveaway. It they disrespect a server, there is usually no need to go further because that says it all. 

  • I would even add how they treat their family. While dedication to one’s work is important, if they are constantly blowing off their family, there are some deeper issues there that may eventually result in troubles down the road.

    Also, if they have a track record of keeping their word. It’s a huge sign for me not to trust someone if they can’t keep their word, minus extraordinary circumstances, like a car accident, death in the family, etc.

  • When my children were small, I had a three question criteria for their friends. I still use it today for myself.

    1. Who are their parents.. which told me where they came from. If I didn’t know them that’s okay I just needed to check them out.
    2. Where do they go to Church.. which told me what moral environment they were coming from.
    3. When was the last time you saw them do something for someone else when they thought no one was looking? This told me all I needed to know about their character.

    Answers to the first two questions didn’t disqualify the new friend, but if they had no answer for question three, I didn’t encourage that relationship.

    • As a parent those parameters resonate with me. We are always monitoring who our children’s friends are. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  • Nice post! I often consider who they spend time with and how they spend their time… sort of goes hand in hand with what you mentioned. People can appear one way and yet if they are spending time in negative situations, relationships or with negative people it has a great affect on their own attitude and behavior.

    • You can even go further and see where they’re spending their money as well. Your bank statement says more about you than anything else.

  • Maxwellc08

    I observe whether or not they keep their word.  Do they show up for things at the agreed upon time?  Do they follow-through with things they say they’re going to do even if they’re just small things?  It is very difficult (and in my opinion, unwise) to trust someone who does not keep/his her word consistently.  And I 100% agree with the other criteria you listed.  They are all character issues and a person’s character has everything to do with whether or not he/she is trustworthy.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome Post Maurilio. Some really sensible and objective criteria for a very subjective issue.

  • noel

    Thanks Maurilio. Except for the part about the animals, I have experienced all of what you are writing about. My mistake has been to take people’s word at face value without investigating. If I would have spent more time upfront getting the 411, I would have saved myself much heartache and time spent cleaning up after the devastation the talented, but wrong people leave in their wake.

  • Thanks for sharing, Maurilio. I really liked this and will be sharing your post with some friends. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing, Maurilio. I really liked this and will be sharing your post with some friends. 🙂 

  • Tom Martin

    Maurilio, excellent post! I see this is quite old but i am so inspired i have to chime in if possible. It comes to me that intuition just comes when what you say is practiced and learning to trust our gut instinct. If possible notice the person in question’s friends, family and associates attitudes and behaviors toward them as well. Honing our awareness is a very problem avoiding practice and saves lots of grief in the long run for our loved ones, associates and clients. Glad i came across your blog.

  • Valerie Heinze

    What an excellent bit of advice that you give to your associates and friends. I applaud you for taking the initiative to write and care about others enough to share your experiences.

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