7 Ways to Build Trust
Trusting someone is one of the most important prerequisites for developing an emotionally close bond with them; it is essential to any successful close relationship. However, losing trust is much simpler and takes much less time than gaining it again. Just as it does to build trust from scratch, it takes time, patience, and effort to restore it. However, if both parties are motivated, it is possible. Are you prepared to put forth the effort for the substantial potential reward? If so, follow these instructions.
- Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
We recognize the telltale signs that someone is saying things that aren’t entirely true, even as young children. We stop believing what our parents are saying when they repeatedly threaten to kick us out of the restaurant or when their sister always says she’ll share her cookie but always ends up eating the whole thing. Our instincts for self-defense, refined over thousands of years of evolutionarily based survival, usually pay attention to the proverbial “boy crying wolf.” To avoid being let down again, we will change our behavior and expectations accordingly, learning not to put as much faith in the person the next time. Therefore, you must stop saying things that you won’t keep your word about or that don’t reflect your true feelings if you want to build trust in your relationship. When repeated, even seemingly small lies will convince the other person that they can no longer rely on what you say.
- Be vulnerable — gradually.
Two distant coworkers never need to rely on each other for anything other than idle small talk or a returned “Good morning” when passing each other in the hallway after 20 years of only talking about the weather and never working closely together on projects. What about two coworkers who have only been working together for six months but are constantly in each other’s faces, needing each other desperately for that 9 p.m. email to be responded to, or to review each other’s work, or to stand up for each other against a demanding boss? Due to their constant need to be vulnerable and depend on one another to deliver or risk facing serious danger, they have forged a bond that is much closer than decades of idle conversation. We also develop trust via a vulnerability in the relationships we pick in our daily life. Some of this develops naturally with time and regular interactions, such as the confidence that our partner will pick us up from the airport if they said they would or that the food prepared for us won’t contain the allergen they know will cause us to experience anaphylaxis if we eat it. However, emotional openness is also crucial. Building trust requires being willing to expose yourself to the possibility of being hurt, which may require sharing an embarrassing memory from your past, telling someone about a current fear, or revealing aspects of yourself that you don’t consider to be “attractive” enough to reveal on a first date. When our relationships have the chance to disappoint or harm us but choose not to, that is when trust is developed. And we have to expose ourselves to that disappointment for them to pass the test and develop that trust. Of course, it’s important to safeguard ourselves along the way gradually.
- Remember the role of respect.
Belittling us, making us feel inferior, or treating us with contempt or condescension instead of respect are some of the most emotionally damaging things our partners can do to us — and our trust — and they can do these things in a variety of ways. Think of the lowest common denominator in any relationship: a mother and son, a cashier, and a customer. Furthermore, maintaining that fundamental level of respect becomes more crucial, not less, as your relationship becomes more emotionally intimate. Unfortunately, when we are closely entwined with someone, we occasionally reveal our worst selves to them. This can be advantageous because it makes us more vulnerable to them but can also involve mistreating them. Ironically, we may act out toward our mother, child, or partner in ways we never would toward a cashier. We also forget that respect is even more crucial to our loved ones because of the long-term harm that disrespect can cause. This does not imply that every interaction with your partner must be formal or impeccable. But it does imply that you need to remember that whenever you treat them in a way that demeans them or violates that fundamental minimum of dignity and respect, you damage your connection and make it harder for them to trust you eventually.
- Give the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s imagine you’ve been seeing a doctor for ten years you have come to respect and trust. Now contrast your feelings about that doctor’s advice with those of a doctor you have never met. While you could be ready to depend on both of their medical qualifications, you’ll likely feel much more at ease with the one you’ve grown to trust. If you trust your doctor and have a history of working together, they could even make it simpler for you to accept any unsettling or challenging medical news. In interpersonal relationships, the same holds. Setting aside your doubts, even for a moment, and putting your trust in the other person goes hand in hand with trust. Now, it may not be a good idea to put all uncertainty to rest in situations where trust has been destroyed and you are attempting to repair it, such as in the case of adultery or drug addiction. In those circumstances, the adage “once bitten, twice shy” may be applicable because you may still need to check up on someone to protect yourself from further harm. However, you must be prepared to thread together some instances of letting the doubt go, or at least suspending it, and seeing whether they come through for you over time if you ever intend to reestablish trust fully. (If they don’t, of course, they are undermining the development of trust.)
- Express your feelings functionally, especially when it’s tough.
Knowing that you can express your emotions to someone and that they will still care about you, that they won’t ignore you out of hand, and that they will be willing to listen is one of the keys to developing emotional intimacy. You can be confident that they will take the time to consider your point of view rather than dismiss it. This requires the emotional maturity to be able to discuss feelings without escalating into shouting, engaging in verbal combat, or ending the conversation. Naturally, it is very simple to have a non-emotionally intimate relationship in which no one lets the other in, and everyone pretends everything is fine. This is because neither person truly trusts the other enough to handle their challenging or uncomfortable feelings or thoughts. But you wouldn’t be reading this if that’s what you wanted, would you? Consider ways to discuss challenging emotions that feel respectful, supportive, and collaborative. Learn to talk about difficult emotions in ways that don’t immediately make you feel threatened or want to start a fight. Many of us have learned from our parents how to talk about difficult topics—or not—and occasionally, these habits can hinder us. But if you want to win someone over, you have to give them a chance to connect with the real you, including your emotional state.
- Take risks together.
Being open and honest with one another may also be a shared effort; it’s not only about exposing certain aspects of yourself. It may also include working together to achieve something worthwhile, such as an exciting holiday experience, a lifestyle adjustment toward better habits, widening your common social circle, or simply broadening your brains by sharing new ideas via thought-provoking books or films. By doing this, you both go beyond your comfort zones with the potential for enhanced trust, much like two buddies who fought side by side in the trenches. Additionally, there is a benefit if you want to deepen your connection in a love relationship: The now-classic 1973 research by Dutton and Aron shows that a little amount of fear-induced arousal might improve your sexual attractiveness.
- Be willing to give as well as receive.
The study on friendship confirms how crucial reciprocity is to a healthy connection. Furthermore, it’s more important that both parties be content with the levels and feel equal than each person provides precisely as much as they are getting. Naturally, in a deep emotional relationship, it is anticipated and recognized that this balance may sometimes change – one person relies on the other when it is most important, and there is no need for bean-counting. And the reason is that when there is trust, you know you won’t wind up giving and giving without ever receiving anything back from the other person. Allowing this process to take place is thus crucial to developing trust. Most people know they should never take more than they give, but what happens when you refuse to let your spouse contribute? You take away some of this equilibrium from them. Consider the larger picture and be open to offer and receive while allowing both processes to take place. Of course, if your spouse is also prepared to offer a little more, you’ll build a cozy, loving cushion and a defense against feeling consistently underpaid or unloved.