marbles in a jar

marbles in a jar

Like other areas of life, the compound effect holds true in relationships as well. 

For the unversed, the compound effect is the strategy of reaping huge rewards from small, seemingly insignificant actions. Here’s the key formula

Small choices + consistency + time = significant results

In essence, it’s not big choices, but ones that you think don’t matter or count for much that derail us. You might not consciously think about it, but these small decisions can really bring about big changes.

This notion is key in building trust in relationships. As Simon Sinek says, “There is no single thing you can be told you have to do so your people will trust you. It’s the accumulation of lots and lots of little things, and anyone by themselves is innocuous and useless.”

Elephants don’t bite; mosquitoes do! It’s the little things that can make or break a relationship.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown shares a story of her young daughter Ellen losing trust in her best friends due to an unfortunate incident at the school and her subsequent decision to never trust anyone again. Brené then uses the analogy of a marble jar to help her daughter understand how trust is built. 

Trust and relationships are built by the little things – the small acts, moments, and gestures that are tiny deposits or investments in a relationship. And each such act, moment, and gesture is like placing a marble in the jar. Lots and lots of these little things repeated consistently over time mean more and more marbles are added to the jar. 

Contrary to the popular belief, grand gestures have no contribution to building trust. They are fleeting in nature and don’t add much to a relationship in the big picture.


And so, whether it be at work, at home, or in the community, our aim must be to keep adding ‘marbles’ to our relationship jars consistently, while making sure that we don’t make any withdrawals (see the image). When the jar is filled to the brim, trust becomes a natural occurrence.