Defining Trust

We’ve all been taught to trust adults when we’re little, authority when we’re entering the world, our hearts when it comes to relationships, and past performance when it comes to business relationships, but what does trust look like?

Trust comes in a variety of packages. It takes a trained eye to recognize authenticity. I tend to want to trust people implicitly, but have learned through tough experiences I need to give people room to prove themselves to me.

More importantly, learning to trust ourselves is the rudder that directs the ship out to sea. Trusting myself at first was difficult. When I began to dissect myself, I had to untangle who I believed I was against who I had been told I was. There were too many voices in my head describing me. I had to learn to trust myself first in order to trust others.

When we’re young we first need to try on different personalities, philosophies of life, and emulate those we admire most. Eventually though, we need to form our own opinions as to who we are rather than who others think we are, or who we’re told to be. We can become stuck in our personalities because we haven’t explored what thoughts belong to us and which ones have been handed to us. We don’t trust ourselves to be ourselves.

What makes me trust worthy?

Here are a few ways to build trust worthiness:

  • Do what you say you’ll do. A person who over-promises and only rarely delivers, isn’t someone others can put their trust in. People need to know that you think through what you’re going to do before you commit. It gives them confidence in you and your word. As much as we’d love to be all things to all people, it’s never going to be doable. Use an old sales adage I was taught—under promise and over-deliver.
  • Over Communicate. Often what you say is not what the other person heard. Without being condescending, ask them to tell you what you just said to be certain you are communicating clearly. Honest communication builds trust that others can bank on. It gives them a chance to know you so well that when they hear something ‘off’ they’ll recognize there’s a problem because you would never do ‘that.’
  • Value the people around you. You might think everyone around you, including family, friends and co-workers, know exactly how much you value them. Truth is, most don’t, unless you tell them often and in various ways. Be careful that you don’t take them for granted—it’s easy to do. When you are under stress or uber busy, look up, live in the moment and remind your support that you can’t get life done well without them.
  • Prioritize Honesty. Tell the truth even when it hurts. Being less than honest builds shaky relationships. Lying says either, “I don’t think you are strong enough to handle the truth” or “I don’t value you enough to be honest with you.” We think we’re helping by hiding or dressing up the truth when in fact we are dishonoring the person and destroying our integrity.
  • Serve others but set boundaries. Stepping back from our own priorities speaks volumes to an individual that we care about them enough to put them at the top of the list of things ‘to do.’ Serving cheerfully restates that they are valuable. Overdoing for a person says you don’t think they’re capable and sets a situation that can cause them to be dependent. Find a balance. Serve but don’t cripple them.
  • Be true to you. People want to know you care. When you share your emotions –good, bad or ugly—you build a bridge that allows them in. If you hide your emotions under the guise of being professional or strong you dig a moat between you and them. If you’re hurt, it’s okay to be sad. If you’re upset don’t pretend you’re not. Body language is easy to read; so when your body tells a different message than your words, you’re not trustworthy. On the flip side, people who live in their emotions constantly are equally difficult to trust. Be true to your feelings but if a situation calls for a 4 reaction on a scale of 1-10 and you’re always reacting as a 9 or 10, not only are you hard to trust but you’re exhausting and relationships will break down.
  • Don’t Fling Your Resume. Johnny Appleseed’s dad use to tell him, “If there’s any bragging to be done about you, let someone else be doin it!” There are times to self-promote, but if you always command the floor, it’s time to step back and notice the other people in the room. Look, we all want to be the hero in our own stories, but lifting others up will bring life to a room and the ‘braggin’ will be done by them.
  • Believe enough in your values to be true to them. When you build a reputation of doing what you believe to be right, even when others disagree with you, they may not like your stance but they will respect your choices and your consistent veracity. It makes you reliable when you stick to what you believe is true. If you have chameleon principles, you become fickle and unpredictable. You’re a risk. There’s a saying that goes, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” Stick to your foundational beliefs. After all, if people see you sell out on yourself, they expect then that you would sell out on them.
  • Be quick to say you were wrong. All of us make mistakes. Be the first one to admit that you failed or were hurtful. This goes back to the same reasons to be honest. Not admitting guilt particularly if it’s obvious, makes you look immature and that means you are no longer trustworthy.

If you can practice these few simple strategies, you’ll experience a life of calm security. You won’t have to remember a lie you might have told, you won’t have to ask for forgiveness for being mean, you won’t have to feel like a wave on shifting sand, and you won’t have to worry about being abandoned when those around you feel under-valued.

Building trust starts with being trustworthy. People young and old get behind a person with honorable convictions and who takes the time to build relationships that can be depended on. Challenge yourself to be the most trustworthy person you know!


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