How to Build Trust Wisely
“I give people a lot of trust in the beginning,” someone recently told me. “But I keep getting disappointed. Sometimes I think it’s better not to trust at all. I just don’t know how to build trust wisely or how to regain trust once it’s been lost.”
Can you relate? I can. Probably every one of us has been disappointed by someone or something we trusted. Intentional or not, it hurts. It’s also scary.
Betrayed trust shows our vulnerability. It also reminds us how dependent we are on trust to make our selves, our relationships, and our lives work. (And how much that sucks sometimes.)
This makes us want to be 100% certain of something in order to trust it. But that’s (a) rarely possible, and (b) wouldn’t, ahem, be trust. That would be certainty. Trust involves an act of faith. Which, by definition, has that challenging element of the unknown about it.
So how do we trust responsibly, in ways that aren’t just acts of blind faith or unqualified reliance? And how do we avoid trust issues and the impulse to shut down, close off, and harden when our trust is betrayed?
The Secret to Trusting
The ability to trust is essential for a healthy, authentic life. Without it, we’d be totally self-reliant- a recipe for stress, anxiety and/or depression, and loneliness.
Trust allows us to engage with life and others, even when circumstances are challenging. It helps us release anxiety and experience the social connection, peace, and optimism that come with trusting.
Done responsibly, we can maximize our chances of good outcomes and minimize the inherent risk. To trust in a safe and healthy manner, try the following:
- Look for the grey zone. Trust is not all-or-nothing. It lives on a continuum. To illustrate: Most of us can trust people (or ourselves) with some things and not with others. Say you have a friend who always shows up if he says he’s going to – he just may or may not show up on time. You can trust him to be reliable in one way, but not another.
- Identify specifically what you can and can’t trust. Take a good look at the people, qualities, and experiences in your life. What holds true over time and exposure? Be specific. Rather than saying “he’s a good guy,” zero in on which qualities demonstrate that. Do these show up consistently? Maybe you can afford to trust in those. If you’re not sure, test it out. Try trusting in small amounts. Share something little, take a small risk. See what the result is.
- Place your trust in what’s been proven trustworthy. Intuition and hopefulness have their place. They’re often the stepping stones for developing trust. But for trust to deepen and be effective, it needs to be backed by experience. Base your trust on past evidence and calculated risk, not wishful thinking or blind denial.
- Open up and connect with whatever it is you trust. It may be God. A higher power. Another person. Abundance. A history of overcoming. Some quality in yourself. Allow yourself to relate to that trusted someone or something. Reflect on how this being, experience or quality has been there for you in the past. Feel the presence of your trusted other and think or say “I trust you” to it whenever you feel anxious. Allow it to soothe your sense of vulnerability. Trust it will help you again, as it has before, and ask for that. This will help release anxiety and rumination about future possibilities.
- Distinguish between possibility and probability. Anything is possible. Your plane might crash. Is it probable? Not statistically; not by a long shot. If you fixate on the what-if’s of life, you’ll feel anxious, inhibited, and unhappy. Focus on what’s likely instead. Reassure yourself that you’ll deal with any undesirable possibility when you have to – not before.
Healthy trust acknowledges the inherent risks and realities of life. Vulnerability. Wounds. Adversity. We will be hurt at times, even betrayed, by what we place faith in.
When that happens, we need to grieve and learn from our experiences – while staying open to future opportunity for things to be different. In some cases, we need to figure out how to rebuild trust with the one who’s disappointed us. In others, it will be with the one(s) who follow.
The alternative is to close ourselves off in an impossible attempt to live a risk-free life, which is no real life at all. It also increases our anxiety by making us fixated on blocking out danger.
Trusting allows us to release anxiety and fear by believing that some additional resource will come to our aid if we need it. By trusting, we acknowledge the existence of positive qualities and forces that can help us deal with whatever we’re afraid of. When we trust, we collaborate with what we trust… making us part of the change and the solution.
Identify an area of life or relationship in which you have trouble trusting. Write down reasons for trusting, as well as reasons for proceeding carefully.
Now ask yourself… What do I need in order to decide whether to trust or not? Are there steps I can take (e.g., sharing something heartfelt but minor and seeing if the other person can be trusted with it)?
Use this information to develop your ability to trust safely.
Resources for Success
Earlier posts taught the techniques of Mindfulness Meditation (Technique 1), Mind Control (Technique 2), and Practicing Gratitude (Technique 3). If you haven’t read them yet, I encourage you to check them out.
Also, try this accompanying 13 minute guided meditation called Thankfulness, Trust, and Hope. The third in a 3 part meditation series called Let Go of Anxiety and Fear, it teaches spiritual practices that will help you develop a spirit of peace, confidence, and optimism.
To listen, click play below: