Building trust is a process ... but it pays off over a lifetime.
Here's one of the best bargains available for building successful relationships:
You can't buy it because it's free and flowing. Once your key of integrity opens the dam, a river of good will fertilizes continuing benefits for all participants.
Though building trust takes time and effort, the foundation for successful relationships based upon trust is firm and safe.
Why build trust?
Your efforts to be authentic enrich you first.
As you hear your true voice emerge through thoughts, emotions, and actions, consistency and predictability join to bring you ease and confidence.
Since trust develops in relationship and interaction, it tends to be a multiplier. The more you give trust, the more you tend to receive it.
The greater the reservoir available to you and people you care about, the larger the ripples of benefits outward.
In addition to enhancing your own personal and professional powers as you create and sustain trust, here are examples of benefits to relationships:
- Improved flow and better outcomes because editing is limited and opportunities explored openly instead of using half-baked language inhibited by fear of offending.
- Richer, enjoyable experiences because full selves are engaged and expressed.
- Less to remember about what was said to whom — because truth-telling is simpler and a better use of time and energy.
- More chances to avoid fear, anxiety, and other negative emotions because safety is a given.
- Unanticipated benefits because of effective collaboration with your "trustees".
What you need to know about YOU, in order to build trust-based relationships.
You have at least two processes in your hands that contribute to developing and sustaining trust. Addressing these honestly, with yourself, will have immediate benefits in other aspects of your life — such as improving work and resources.
- Determine who you are and who you want to be, which may not be entirely clear early on, or at certain points in your life.
- Decide how you want to relate to — and invest in — people who are important to you.
In themselves, both processes provide opportunities for cultivating and expressing your authentic self, an important foundation for acting in trustworthy ways.
Yet neither emerges from the quick fix of a particular act, nor do they exist in a vacuum. For example, you've probably experienced the tension between honoring your own needs and preferences, and being a member of a family, work group, community, and country.
But creating trust starts within you, where you have the most influence.
Because integrity emerges from developing clarity about what is important to you, identifying what you want to accomplish for the foreseeable future, and striving to be honest with yourself and others.
That all begins within yourself. You are essentially the responsible person.
Here are some additional opportunities to build trust with people:
- Be transparent about your motives, as appropriate, when engaging with people. Mention why you want to do something, so that they don't have to guess or wonder.
- Communicate openly, especially dealing with important issues. To support understand, express an issue clearly, with specific concerns.
- Be consistent in important actions, including what you say, as well as your non-verbal communication and tone of voice. Stay attuned to the messages sent with your body language. Research shows that 50% of communication is non-verbal.
- Deliver on promises, or alert others to your inability to do so in timely ways. Initially specify timing. As soon as you know that will change, tell the people who need to know.
You probably know of other ways to create trust from the inside out.
These may seem like too tall an order, but when you think of them as continuing processes involving modest steps for creating a good life for yourself, they may seem more accessible and worth the effort.
For now, though, just choose one action that is important to you in order to decide on your next steps.
Yes, there are dangers to trusting. Here's what you need to know.
Almost anything important that involves human relationships involves risk.
In work and private life, people lie, lead on, manipulate information, hide their true feelings behind polite facades, and camouflage reality, to name just a few typical behaviors that make trusting tricky.
Sometimes the laziness of poor listening contributes as well.
Even seemingly benign situations can implode, especially when thinking that things will work out or blow over leads to postponing dealing with issues that need to be addressed.
Avoiding the dangers:
To protect yourself from the dangers that come with naive or uncritical leaps of faith or just trusting inappropriately, consider, adapt and add to the following:
- Listen to your intuition and emotions which are based on deep knowledge that may not be appreciated or conscious; lengthen your antenna for identifying insincerity, manipulation, cant, and absurdity.
- Use critical thinking; develop your sense of humor to lighten the load and retain perspective.
- Keep your expectations modest and your efforts consistent with your values while honing your conflict resolution skills.
- Avoid, as much as possible, people who are mean-spirited, slimy, ungenerous, jealous, insecure, and self-absorbed as well as others who drain you.
- Review past mistakes in trusting in order to identify themes and situations that expose your vulnerabilities; perhaps write a personal alert list to protect yourself in the future.
Just as trust brings opportunities for creating a good life, the processes for avoiding the dangers of trusting will contribute to the quality of daily existence.
Though there can be ebbs and flows to experiences with trust, varying with your confidence, expertise, and circumstances, eventually better levels will be reached.
Perhaps the continuum of trust below will keep you alert to a range of related attitudes and behaviors and their connections to one another. Most people experience many of them over time.
Unquestioning trust----> Willingness to trust based on data, emotion, and experience ----> Careful discrimination ----> Trust ----> Vigilance ----> Collection of reservations----> Distrust----> Paranoia
Building on what you know
You likely have useful experience with creating and sustaining trust, as well as some mistakes you've made that can offer opportunity for learning.
So consider what that experience has taught you.
- In what kinds of situations do you feel at home and willing to trust?
- What types of people are safe and stimulating for you?
- Who do you want to avoid?
- What circumstances allow you to be true to yourself and bloom?
- What skills and abilities do you want to cultivate in order to foster the opportunities that come with careful trusting?
Add this information to your personal alert list to provide balanced guidance for your future.
Whenever you can, design your life around your answers to these questions.
As you trust your intuition and common sense, and take modest steps to honor them, you will strengthen your confidence in your own capacities.
What better foundation for creating and sustaining trust with others who are worthy of your trust?
Ruth Schimel, PhD, is a Career and Life Management Consultant in the Washington, DC area. She shows her range of clients throughout the U.S. and abroad how to make wise choices that awaken their strengths and interests to become their best selves in life and work. Ruth’s Choose Courage series is available on Amazon. Find additional resources as well as information about her and her practice on her website or call her at 202.659.1772.