Trust is essential to relationship success. For trust to exist, there has to be trustworthiness and a willingness to trust. The question is, if we have a hard time trusting others, will it matter how sincere, reliable, competent and caring we are? Will they be able to view us as trustworthy?
Trust involves risk taking, vulnerability and uncertainty
When we trust someone we are essentially saying that we are willing to rely on them to do what they say they are going to do and act in our best interests. It is both relational (between two people) and context specific.
Trust needs trustworthiness
Before trusting someone we look for evidence of their trustworthiness. We'll look at how sincere, reliable, capable and caring they are:
Do they mean what they say, say what they mean, and act accordingly? Are they honest? Can they be believed? Do they express useful, valid opinions? Do their actions align with their words?
Can you count on them to deliver what they promise! Can you be sure they will follow through on the commitments they make and keep their promises?
Do they know what they can and can't do? Do they have the knowledge, skills and ability to do what they are doing or propose to do? Are they clear on what they don't have the skills or time to do?
Are you in this together? Can you be sure they have your interests in mind as well as their own when they make decisions and take actions? Or are they only concerned with their self-interest and don’t consider your interests?
The emotional connection
In a new relationship we may not have information about the person to ‘rationalise’ whether or not we can rely on them. So our assessment will lean more heavily on any emotional attachment we have with them. As the relationship evolves and more evidence becomes available, so will our interpersonal trust.
So when Sandy engaged Pete to repair her fence she trusted him because he was the son of a loyal and supportive close friend. Pete turned up on time each day and was polite and considerate, thus strengthening her initial trust in him. However, when she looked more closely she realised that he had not repaired or painted the less visible sections. In Sandy’s eyes, not only was this poor workmanship it was also deceitful. Pete was not to be trusted and the relationship broke down.
Trust is in the eye of the beholder
Trust is a two way street. To receive trust we must give trust. Put simply, if we do not trust others, they will find it very hard to trust us. Sandy would be the first to admit that she struggles to trust others. Subconsciously she tends to treat people with suspicion. And non-one likes to engage with someone who doubts them.
Sandy did not talk to Pete about her concerns. She did not seek an explanation. She simply withdrew from the relationship, making any reconciliation impossible. It doesn’t matter how trustworthy Sandy might consider herself to be, in Pete’s eyes she is closed, dishonest and suspicious. If we struggle to trust others, how can we expect them to see us as trustworthy?
How trustworthy do you think you are?
Think about your behaviours in a specific role - at home as a friend, parent, wife or husband; at work as a manager or colleague; in the community as a leader or volunteer:
- Are you honest? Do you keep confidences? Do you admit when you are wrong? Do you own your actions?
- Can they count on you? Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you deliver on your promises?
- Do you have what it takes for this role? Are you good at what you do? Do you have the experience to solve problems and assist them? Are you aware of what it is you don't know?
- Do you care about them? Do you have their best interests at heart? Do you listen to them and seek their ideas? Do you praise their efforts? Are you willing to share things about yourself with them?
Why not try: Apply the exercise above to different roles and see how they compare.
You might like: Trust works! by Ken Blanchard