Transparency Is a Trust Advance

The Munich housing market is ruthless. Hundreds of applicants vie for a single apartment listing only minutes after it is released. If you can’t play the insider’s game, trawling the usual marketplaces might take months – unless you find a way to stand out.

When I applied for my current flat, I put together a little PDF file. It included my CV, an excerpt from the German debt register, my passport, and even some income and tax statements. I uploaded the file to Dropbox and included the link in the message I sent via the contact form. This way, instead of the usual “Dear Sir or Madam, my name is… I would like to apply…” bla bla, potential landlords would get all of the data they’d need right away.

“But Nik, that’s risky! What about your privacy? Now every landlord in town has a lot of your data! How do you know you can trust them?” I can’t – and that is exactly the point.

In business and in life, transactions require trust, and the only way to build trust is to show vulnerability.

When it comes to financial deals, vulnerability often takes the form of transparency: People want to know what they are buying, and the more expensive it is, the more they want to know. There is no better way to build trust with a potential buyer, or landlord, in this case, than to give them all the transparency they need up front. You’ll have to open your kimono anyway, and doing it before they ask you to shows you’re willing to be as transparent as you’ll need to be to get things done.

That little link I included in my messages acted as a trust advance. I show you some vulnerability, and you’ll know it is safe for you to show me some as well. That’s how the world works. We all understand, appreciate, and to some extent even expect this when others are forthcoming with us, especially if they want something from us. Often, however, we are reluctant to do the same when it’s our turn.

Transparency is a great trust advance, and not just when it comes to money. If you raise your hand at work and say you’re going through a tough time, your boss will take it easy on you. They’ll trust you to handle your situation in time. If you tell your partner you’re struggling with a task, they won’t rush you to get it done.

Trust is a capacity we must build again and again throughout life. Transparency is a great way to get out in front of it. Life flows more smoothly when we can establish trust quickly. The next time you move, buy a car, or make a big purchase, be sure to hand out some trust advances.