One indispensable quality affects every relationship in your life.

It holds together all your associations. It determines whether you realize your dreams, both personal and professional.

And it virtually defines you to others. Without it, true success is impossible.

Stephen M.R. Covey is even more emphatic. He writes:

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world — one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

“On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time.

“That one thing is trust.”

Simply put, trust is confidence. It is other people feeling good about relying on you.

And its value can hardly be overstated. Trustworthiness is the universally accepted test of good character.

When you trust someone, you have confidence in his honesty and abilities. You can delegate things easily and effectively. You can relax. You have peace of mind.

But when you doubt someone’s integrity, question his accomplishments, or worry about his agenda, confidence is replaced by suspicion and anxiety.

Take a moment and picture someone you trust implicitly. It could be a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a business associate. How does this relationship make you feel? How easily do you communicate? How quickly do things get done?

Now imagine someone you distrust. How does this relationship feel? How easily do you communicate? Do you enjoy this relationship? Or is it complicated, cumbersome, and draining?

The difference between a high-trust and low-trust relationship is night and day. In a high-trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing and your listener still understands you. In a low-trust relationship, you can choose your words carefully, be very precise, and you may still be misunderstood.

Sadly, trust is at an ebb in our society. A Harris poll reveals that only 27 percent of Americans trust the government. Only 22 percent trust the media. Only 12 percent trust big companies. And only 8 percent trust political parties.

Personal trust is waning, too. Many people look back on contracts or commitments as something to negotiate. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Many (perhaps most) founder on a lack of trust.

We naturally gravitate away from individuals we can’t believe or rely on and towards those we can. Low trust is the very definition of a bad relationship. And once you forfeit someone’s confidence, it’s awfully hard to win it back.

This is particularly true in business.

We all survive by selling a product, service, or skill. Yet every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.

If trust is lacking, forget the other four. You’re done. The moment someone suspects your motives, everything you do becomes tainted.

Alexander Green is the Investment Director of The Oxford Club. A Wall Street veteran, he has over 20 years experience as a research analyst, investment advisor, financial writer and portfolio manager. Under his direction, The Oxford Club’s portfolios have beaten the Wilshire 5000 Index by a margin of more than 3-to-1. The Oxford Club Communiqué, whose portfolio he directs, is ranked fifth in the nation for risk-adjusted returns over the past 10 years by the independent Hulbert Financial Digest. Mr. Green has written for Louis Rukeyser and several other leading financial publications. He has been featured on The O’Reilly Factor, and has been profiled by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, C-SPAN and CNBC among others. He currently writes and directs the twice-weekly Oxford Insight e-letter and three short-term trading services: The Momentum Alert, The Insider Alert and The New Frontier Trader, as well as the editor of "Spiritual Wealth," a free e-letter about the pursuit of the good life. Mr. Green is also the author of two bestsellers “The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio” and “The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters.”