Trust Intent…

I have always prided myself on being able to learn from anyone – and everyone – I work with. Like many things, learning from people is a skill and as such it is something that I have become better at with practice. The key for me is to listen carefully (to what people say), to think deeply (about what they say) and to observe accurately (what they do).

Anything anyone says to us is based on their experiences, insights and knowledge. And as such it will be worth listening to. It may or may not be right. It may or may not be the same as our own thoughts. Nevertheless, my starting assumption is that it is always worth listening to. But although listening is essential…it is not enough. Thinking and considering what has been said, what it means, why it was said and how it influences what I was thinking – or what I was about to do – has to follow. This is where I find the real value.

I once asked my best friend at work how she managed to achieve so much, to help so many and to be so relaxed. She paused. She thought. She smiled. “I trust intent.”

I listened carefully. But then I realised that she had finished. That was her answer. Trust intent. There was no more. It was now down to me to think deeply. I immediately realised that I needed help or needed more. “In what way?” Was the best I could come up with. She smiled again. “I trust intent.”

This was some four or five years ago. And I have been thinking deeply about this answer ever since. It sounds so simple. It clearly worked for my best friend at work. But what did it really mean? How could I learn and apply.

I realise there is always intent behind what any of us do or say. And that resultant impact (on us or others) may not always be the same as desired intent. And I also know that we all invest much time and effort in building trust – normally the trust of others in us – either explicitly or implicitly. But what does it mean when the two words are brought together?

Well, last week – during one of many work based conversations – I realised that I may have worked out what it means to ‘trust intent’. Or rather I have a theory – a theory in two parts. The first was simple – that I was looking for too deep a meaning. And secondly – that in any situation, or in any conversation, we should always ‘trust’ the ‘intent’ of others to be positive and well meaning.

I also realised that – like many simple concepts – it is harder to apply this philosophy than it is to say. But I am sure that if we operate in this way then not only would our lives be simpler, but also we would have chance to emulate my best friend at work.

To be able to ‘trust intent’ of someone else’s words or actions is a personal decision. It is independent of the impact (positive, negative or neutral) on us of that person’s words or action. It is unemotional. It is unconditional.

Every day, hour or even minute, someone says something to me, asks for something from me, or does something that impacts me. And if I ‘trust intent’ for all of these words or actions then my life is most definitely simpler. I learn far more than I ever dreamed possible. I am able to do more.

And I feel good.




About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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4 Responses to Trust Intent…

  1. briggs says:

    Nice post, Steve. I too have learned this pearl over the years. There is a corollary that goes with it – “trust competence”. I have found in my years in large compnaies that when teams first form, or when a new person joins a team or a company, everyone seems to assume incompetence instead of competence. “Prove to me you are competent and should be on this team” seems to be the prevailing attitude. Given all the downsizing that has occurred in large companies, unless the downsizing has been totally random, the process should have by now enriched for the higher performing colleagues. Given established managerial practices at company’s, poor performers should have been removed — or should, at worst, compromise a small percentage of the workforce. So why do people assume incompetence?

    So I agree with your point and would enhance it to “trust intent and competence”.

    • Lisa U says:

      Couldn’t agree more Steve. I have talked about ‘assuming good intent.’ Same idea and very powerful. However, I like the way your friend ‘owned’ the concept – personalized it with I trust… It is a practice for everyday. I also like the idea of trusting competence. It’s amazing what we can create if we look for the possibilities that exist, rather than what is wrong.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Steve Street says:


        Great to hear from you. And i agree that it is very much the ‘personal’ aspect of trusting intent that attracted me.

        Cheers, and thanks again


    • Steve Street says:


      Alwasy good to hear from you – the addition of competence…as in ‘trust intent and competence’ is really very helpful. I like it!



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