How you create trust and keep that trust safe is a crucial element in all relationships. Trust is at its core psychological safety and confidence in those around you. While there are big hairy deals that happen in relationships that can wipe out trust. Trust in others is the super glue that holds us together. Let’s discover 9 steps that will help you create and deepen the trust in all your relationships.
Without the ability to have faith in others, we live with a lot of uncertainty and stress. While Mother Nature can hit us with a level 5 hurricane, we can typically see it coming. Whereas, secrets in a relationship, such as affairs, can level trust like an earthquake. At work, grousing behind closed doors on everything from promotions to character can blindside people. Our blindspots often lead to blindsiding others.
All these little moments, the unkind word or intention, a disingenuous comment, a tone of contempt, all these smaller things deplete our belief in ourselves and those around us.
What is the Real Problem?
You might think these huge deals are the real problem in creating a trust based relationship. And, yes they do harm trust hugely. But what if they aren’t the real thing that typically creates a systemic loss of faith in the integrity of others?
Let’s say that the building blocks of trust come in much smaller packages. The elements of how we argue, disagree, question, how we listen, and negotiate differences ultimately make a more significant impact on the overall health of our relationships. These seemingly small things happen multiple times daily, and they sow the seeds of loneliness and disconnection, which lead to far more critical breaks in trust. The longer these smaller trust breaking behaviors, attitudes, and disrespect go on, the more inevitable a really big trust breaking situation becomes.
Take a moment and think about a relationship; it could be personal or work-related. Consider a time you lost faith in the relationship. How did you feel about being around that person? Ask yourself to remember how you treated them? Maybe aways keeping them at an arms length?
What a lack of trust does is shut us down. We tend to hunker down in the face of distrust, to protect ourselves. Self-protection doesn’t leave a lot of room for innovation, joy, or confidence.
Trust is the foundation for growth, creativity, and innovation. People who don’t feel confident in others, don’t share or collaborate; they don’t explore ideas, or have passionate conversations that lead to new learning. They drift apart and stagnate. Having trust is so crucial to the success of a family, an organization, or a community that it begs to be addressed.
How do you build trust? Even more importantly, how do you rebuild it?
1. Create Positive Relationships.
Being positive in relationships is not about superficial niceness or Pollyanna perfection. Positive relationships are relationships in which people feel heard, understood, liked, and appreciated. It’s basic Psychology 101, we like people who like us. This is just a simple truth.
So, ask yourself, how do you show people that you enjoy or value them? How do you know when people enjoy or appreciate you? Pay attention to what behaviors demonstrate “liking.” Maybe we smile at them with genuine warmth. Or ask questions that show our interest in what’s happening in their lives. We tend to value their opinions, even if we disagree; we encourage them in their endeavors. In our busy world, it is easy to lose track of another person’s humanness, so keeping an open mind towards someone’s ideas, interests and passions helps people feel open and receptive toward you in return.
2. Allow for differences.
We often get very clear about our own perspective and we can sit pretty proudly in our rightness… righteousness. But, our sense of being right can shut down other people. Some of the smartest and most influential people encourage differing perspectives because they understand that they can’t see all sides of any situation and they will make the best decisions if they ask for other points of view. If you want to develop trust, then you are going to have to learn to listen, often to things that you might not agree with. There is a vast difference between listening to understand versus listening for ammo.
3. Listening = Listening.
For many, the idea of listening equals agreement, but I want to challenge that idea. Listening and really hearing another person doesn’t equal agreement, it equals working to understand another perspective. We do not have to agree or change our perspective to truly listen to another. What is true, though, is that people will feel trust in you if they can question your ideas or passionately discuss differences without being attacked or punished for their perspective. I recently had a conversation with someone who continually called people names as they discussed their rightness. Their rigid attachment to being right, stopped any form of dialog, I know I didn’t feel like saying much at all. Remember, the more willing you are to hear these differences, the bigger the circle of trust around you.
4. Share the glory and freely give credit.
Have you ever worked with someone or been friends with someone who takes all or the bulk of the credit? Nothing erodes trust like feeling like someone stole your idea or took ownership of your hard work. You may feel violated. Or, the situation becomes something you circle and cannot let go of. This type of break of trust often becomes a disruptive factor towards the forward direction of the goal, the relationship, or any community. Pay attention when you are working with others that ideas and work are acknowledged, and that people are given credit where credit is due. In fact, when appreciation isn’t shown, that’s one thing, people can live with that. But if their work or ideas are stolen, you may find that trust is broken and irreparable.
5. Demonstrate integrity and follow-through.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone is saying all the right things, but their actions don’t mirror their words? In my work, a lack of integrity in your words is one of the most difficult to understand for others. When you hear the right words, you’re hopeful, you want to believe, but then there is no follow-through, and you’re left confused. You said XYZ, but then did LMNOP… why?
Here’s an example. Your boss or employee or wife comes to you, “Will you do XYZ?” You say, yes. Maybe you really have the best intentions for doing XYZ. Or, because you wanted to avoid a prolonged discussion around why you don’t want to do it, you agree to XYZ. But, you get busy with your day and forget about the agreement. Now you’ve created a trust gap.
When we are dealing with people who say one thing and then do something different, it’s a crazy maker. At first, we might spend time wondering if we’re being too particular or demanding. Then every time we bring it up XYZ, we hear the words we want to hear, again. “Yes, I said I would do this for you, and I will.” Are we crazy?
6. Actions speak louder than words.
Any situation in which words and actions are out of alignment creates a trust gap that requires a lot of extra work to fix. The fact is that while people might not like getting told ‘no’, they still tend prefer it to a disingenuous ‘yes.’ If you call up your courage and honestly explain why you can’t do XYZ, then at least others won’t feel like they were bamboozled. And, each time, our words and actions are out of alignment, it erodes the trust in our relationships. This easily becomes one of the many “little things.”
As with any crazy maker, it’s easy to lose our cool, and this only amplifies the distrust. To keep your cool, remind yourself of your goal, what you say, think, and do, will impact your outcome.
7. Take personal responsibility for your mistakes.
Often when we make mistakes, we want to ignore them and move on. Maybe we hope no one will notice, or if they do, we have a speedy response that often sounds like a redirect and an attack all rolled into one. Building trust is not about never making a mistake; it’s about full ownership of the error and developing a plan to correct the said mistake. People trust people who take ownership of their actions. If we get defensive and blame other people for our decisions, then we sow the seeds of distrust. It is a bit like a snowball rolling down a hill, it can gather speed and take out whole villages in its destruction.
8. Mentor and grow people.
People trust and value people who help them learn to solve their own problems. Share perspectives, but don’t be attached to a particular outcome. Look for the learning moments and give positive feedback on jobs well done. All these actions help to grow your trust influence. The role of a mentor is to believe in the potential of another person to become something. John Gottman talks about a 5 to 1 imbalance towards the positive (5 positives for every negative) for relationships to feel healthy to people. We are all more trusting of someone’s feedback if we believe that they are on our side, wanting us to be better.
9. Think (W)holistically.
Look to the bigger picture. Many people get so focused on a specific goal that they are virtually blind to the cost of reaching the goal. Consider that there are emotional, financial, energetic, and time costs to every situation. These costs are shared by all the people in situations where distrust grows. Sometimes it pays to go a little slower, ask a few more questions, and talk through all concerns before moving ahead. When all the players feel heard, and all the questions get asked before jumping off the mountain, your team is more likely to follow as you take the leap.
Trust is a fragile thing. With it, small groups of people can move mountains together. Not every situation requires each step. But, if you are in a situation where the trust is minimal, then you might want to think about several of these steps and see if they might just help you grow your trust influence.
Natural disasters may shatter our security; still, most are beyond our personal control. Not so with our personal and professional relationships. How we create psychological safety and develop deep trusting relationships is within our control. Pay attention to the small building blocks of integrity and build or rebuild your circle of trust. With this level of honesty, you can create a space that few interpersonal storms can harm.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- Who is someone you admire and trust?
- What specific behaviors demonstrate their trustworthiness to you?
All Photo copyright retained by photo owners, everything else ©2014-2022 Lyssa deHart
article originally posted on Dec 2, 2019. Updated April 23, 2023.