Knowing Who To Trust

If you have a hard time trusting, then it might be because someone violated your trust when you were very young. Maybe it was your parents...or another family member...or someone else who was important to you at the time. Someone did something that wasn't trustworthy.  I'm not blaming them -- everyone make mistakes -- but sometimes when this happens you are the one who has to live with the consequence of either not trusting people or trusting people who don't deserve it --- and then getting hurt all over again. There is a way to start fresh - to start to learn to trust the right people, but it requires some truth telling on your part. Start by knowing the qualities of trustworthy people. If they do all of these things, or most of these things, then it may be safe or appropriate for you to trust them. If there are people in your life who don't do these things -- well, they may not be worthy of your trust.

Qualities of Trustworthy People

  • Trustworthy people usually show up on time.
  • When trustworthy people say something will happen, it usually does.
  • If trustworthy people tell you about an event, the information they give you is so thorough that when you find out more about the event or learn about it from another source, usually the descriptions match.
  • Trustworthy people rarely lie and don't expect you to lie for them.
  • Trustworthy people usually don't lie by omission to "protect' you or because they want to avoid "upsetting" you.
  • Trustworthy people are rarely hypocritical.
  • Trustworthy people usually give real apologies.
  • Trustworthy people's behaviors match their actions.

Know how to practice healthy trust with all of the new people in your life or the ones you decide are trustworthy.  Trust is a shared ladder and people climb it together one rung at a time. If you're healthy, it's usually pretty safe to get a rung ahead or a rung behind the other person. But just one. It's okay to take a risk and put yourselves out there for another person.  Not a big risk, but a small one where you can be a tiny bit vulnerable.

But...if you keep climbing the ladder and the other person hasn't moved -- if they still aren't sharing with you the trust that you are sharing with them -- that's unhealthy trust.  To understand this in detail, read my article Healthy vs. Unhealthy Trust where I provide thorough examples.

Sometimes it's hard, but to have successful trusting relationships you need to practice staying on the same rung of the ladder the other person is on. If you climb to the next rung and they don't follow you -- then you may have to let go of wanting the relationship to be on a different rung than it is.  If you continually go up a rung when it's clear the other person isn't interested - the space between the rungs is YOUR PAIN.

Something else to consider:  check the list again, this time thinking about yourself. Are you trustworthy? Start becoming a trustworthy person if you are not already one (yes, white lies count). "Be the change you wish to see in the world," as Gandhi said.  You can't really expect the people around you to be trustworthy if you're not (because that would be hypocritical and that is not a quality of a trustworthy person).

Resources: Beck, Martha.  (2009).  Who's Never Gonna Let You Down and Kotler, Stephen (1995).  Trust Me, Please.  SELF, Vol. 17, No. 11 158-159.

Heart 2 Heart With Elizabeth Kupferman