Trust is the single-most-important filter through which information about risks and threats passes. With this in mind, it is well worth reading The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey.

As discussed in module three of Dr. Vincent Covello’s online course Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication, trust is a firm belief in the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. It is a person or thing in which confidence is placed.

Let’s see what Mr. Covey has to say about trust.

The Speed of Trust

In his book, Covey posits that trust is the most important element in any relationship, be it between family members, coworkers, or world leaders. He shows how people can build, create, and repair trust—something of immediate interest to risk communicators.

Covey writes about the “trust tax” and “trust dividend.” The former is lost during miscommunication, and the latter is gained when those around you are confident in your abilities and character.

The First Wave of Trust

Covey describes five waves of trust, the first of which is self-trust.

Self-trust contains four cores of credibility:

  • Integrity
  • Intent
  • Capabilities
  • Results

The Second Wave

Covey’s second wave is relationship trust, which includes thirteen behaviors:

  • Talk straight
  • Demonstrate respect
  • Create transparency
  • Right wrongs
  • Show loyalty
  • Deliver results
  • Get better
  • Confront reality
  • Clarify expectations
  • Practice accountability
  • Listen first
  • Keep commitments
  • Extend trust

Waves Three, Four, and Five

Covey’s last three waves have to do with three kinds of stakeholder trust:

  • Organizational trust
  • Market trust
  • Societal trust


Covey concludes his book by showing readers how to extend “smart trust” and how to restore trust when it has been lost. Again, these are among the most valuable tools a risk communicator can possess.

Pathway Prompt: Can you think of a situation when you have been able to restore trust, either personally or professionally? How did you do so?

Communicating Effectively When Feelings, Fears, and Facts Collide

More information about risk, high-concern, and crisis communication can be found in Dr. Covello’s video-based course Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication.

This master class introduces communicators to the tools and techniques for communicating effectively—while providing greater insight into why audiences react the way they do during times of stress.

The course comprises nine video lectures and accompanying text modules, plus supplemental materials for putting valuable lessons into practice. More information about the course, including group rates and partnering opportunities, can be found by emailing

Dr. Vincent Covello

Dr. Vincent Covello, director of the Center for Risk Communication, is one of the world’s leading experts and practitioners on risk, high-concern, and crisis communication. He is the author of more than 150 articles in scientific journals and the author/editor of more than 20 books.


Covey, Stephen M. R. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. Free Press. New York: 2008.