How to Build Trusting Relationships

7 Elements of Trust

“Get me once, shame on you.  Get me twice, shame on me.”  

“I love hard.  I give my all in relationships, but once I reach my limit with you, I am done.”

“I’ll give it a try, but as soon as “this” starts to feel like “that”, I’m out of here.”

Forgiving and healing from past pains is hard in it’s own right, but it’s equally as hard to protect your ability to trust.  

Heartache and betrayal are cruel teachers.  They teach us that not everyone can be trusted.

Without a doubt, they are terrible leaders.  They lead us to self-protective defense mechanisms that sabotage our future relationships.  

Trust is vital in every relationship. So, how do you learn when to trust, how to build it, how to restore it, and how to end a relationship that lacks it?

What Is Trust?

Ask a small group of friends what trust is and you’ll get a small handful of different answers: being able to believe what you say, being reliable, being real, loyalty.  Merriam-Webster defines trust as (n) an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength of someone or something.  And as (v)to rely on the accuracy or truthfulness of, to place confidence in/rely on; to commit or place in one’s care; to permit to do something without fear or misgiving. 

How Can I Tell Who To Trust

How Trust Is Built

Have you ever met someone who shares very intimate details of their life five minutes after you meet?  Although the intent might be an attempt at developing trust and vulnerability in the relationship, the opposite may actually occur.  Too much transparency and vulnerability too soon can feel unsafe to the others involved. The other person may wonder if their own sensitivities and vulnerabilities are safe in your hands.  Worse, is the potential for the other person to weaponize the information you shared in confidence to actually manipulate you or to use it for their own gain.  So, while time is imperative to building trust, there are actually seven key elements to trust:

Integrity. When a person governs themselves based on values and principles, rather than by emotions and personal comfort they can be trusted to do what is right even when it’s hard, uncomfortable, or scary.  These people have a standard by which they keep themselves honest and hold themselves accountable.

Respect. People who are willing to accept your boundaries in the relationship are showing respect for you and your interest.  When someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, they don’t respect you.  Disrespect breeds distrust.  

Consistency. The normal tendency of a person is displayed in their habits…their consistency.  Consistency in and of itself is neither good nor bad.  It is the actual behavior of a person that you should pay attention to here.  If the person is consistently late, then they are consistent, which is good, but you’d rather they be early—or on time at the very least.  Nevertheless, a persons’ consistency informs you of how to trust them. 

Dependability. When a person does what they have said they will do, show up where they said they would be, or are otherwise reliable they show that they are reliable and trustworthy.  

Responsibility. People who never accept responsibility for their wrong-doings, errors, and mistakes, are incapable of sincerely apologizing. You can’t expect a person to change their thinking or behavior if they can’t even admit they were wrong.  If a person won’t own their mistakes, then they won’t learn from them.  They are not safe people. 

Confidentiality. Safe people keep your private information and experiences confidential. They accept your flaws and weaknesses without exposing you in front of others. These people make vulnerability feel less dangerous or scary.  Hint: one way to determine if a person can keep your information confidential is to consider the kind of information they share with you about other people—if they will break someone else’s confidence with you, then they are likely not a safe place for your private information.

Compassion. Allows you to ask for what you need and speak about how your feel without judgment, but with compassion and understanding.

When a relationship lacks any of these elements, it’s difficult to develop deep, meaningful connections. You or the other person may feel a constant tension around becoming too vulnerable, which leads to hiding emotionally or feeling the need to protect your heart and feelings. The next time you find yourself holding back the whole truth about a subject, stuffing your feelings in certain situations, or holding back a part of your self-expression (as if you can’t be who you really are), ask yourself why. You may have one of the elements of trust to work on personally if you want that relationship to thrive. Maybe the person you are dealing with isn’t fully trustworthy, and the future of the relationship should be something you reconsider before you give too much time and energy to it. Maybe it’s a colleague, or family member with whom you have to stay in relationship with, but you just need to put some boundaries in place for how you interact with them (Insulating the relationship).

Trust Yourself

The key is to understand the elements of trust and identify how each of your relationships can be improved by nurturing trust. It’s foundational to every relationship. It’s hard to earn and even harder to restore

So if you are blessed with a loving, trusting relationship, be sure to do your part to guard it!

  1. How do you extend trust in your relationships?  Do you trust too much, too fast?  Are you too distrustful of others to build deep meaningful connections?
  2. How could you build more trust in your current relationships, particularly the ones that lack depth and meaningful connection?

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  1. Very good, your post, I really liked it, it’s helping me to see several points of my relationship

    1. I’m so glad you found help for your relationship. May you and your significant other continue to grow together in grace and love!

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