Skill 9: Trust

You and Fred are put on a team together. You haven’t met before. But you have to work together. So you sit down to brainstorm on how to achieve your objective. Whenever you have an idea, Fred questions their validity. You eventually settle on a plan, but Fred keeps checking on your work as you go through milestones. He’s not rude or abrasive, but he doesn’t let you turn anything in until he sees it. You try to get to know him, but he won’t tell you anything about himself. One day, he spills coffee on his keyboard. Do you:

A) Immediately jump up and help him rescue what he can from his desk
B) Laugh, but slowly get up to help him dry things off
C) Think to yourself that he totally deserves it

Chances are, you would do B, C or both. That jerk was getting on your nerves. You were the victim of mistrust, and you hated it. He didn’t trust you to do your job, and he didn’t trust you to know anything about him. So when the time came to make a choice about what to do for him, you probably did what you thought you should do, but you really didn’t care. He’s pissed now, but whatever, he deserved it.

There are people in this world that would have done A anyway. If you chose B or C, you are not a bad person. But you should be aware of it, so you can choose what you want to do next time it happens to you.

Without trust, we don’t feel safe or comfortable. We feel like we need to keep an eye on the people around us, and double-check any work we need to rely on. We expend our energy trying to feel in control instead of on our tasks and the people around us. If you don’t trust someone, it’s very easy not to care about them. It doesn’t feel like they’re worth it. And they will return the favor. Distance and abstraction makes it easier to feel this way. Ever had an argument over email only to resolve it in 5 minutes when you actually talked to the person?

Today there is certainly an ongoing impression that the amount of trust in the world is decreasing. If you begin to believe that (many sources would certainly give you the impression that the world is a frightening place), it is easy to show distrust. It is easy to fall into the mindset of “They would do it to me.” So it becomes easy not to care. If given the choice, it would be pretty easy to kick Fred out in favor of someone else, wouldn’t it?

Fred is a fairly straightforward case, but we experience and exhibit mistrust in subtle ways every day. Similarly, we experience and exhibit trust. It has a huge impact on who we feel comfortable with. Who we go to for help, who we are willing to help, and what we are willing to do to help them. It helps us define who we want to spend our time with, and who we feel connected to.

So what can we do to create this happy place of trust for ourselves? Trust must be given, and so that means you must be worthy of trust. And it means that you have to be willing to trust people. This doesn’t mean you have to trust them with your deepest secrets, but you can start small and work your way up. By using your best judgment you can identify what kind of trust you can lend to which people.

Being Worthy of Trust

You are in control of the aspect of trust in your sphere of influence. All you need to do is make it clear that you are worthy of trust. Then trust in you will grow. This is an attractive quality in anyone. It means people can be themselves around you without judgment. And they can rely on you when they need it. It means you’ll do what you say. You show that you believe they have value. Everyone knows how to do this. It’s just sometimes easier not to. So you’ll need to go the extra mile and make sure you’re keeping up with it.

Trusting Others

Trusting others can get complicated. It means putting yourself out there. If your trust is betrayed too often it is easy to shut down entirely. So you need to identify who is worthy of your trust. Luckily it’s not too hard. It just takes practice. It’s a matter of exercising your awareness and giving people chances.

The first point is that you don’t have to trust a new person with your life right away. That would likely be irresponsible. But you can start with little things and see how the person responds. Share a somewhat embarrassing story, but make it clear you don’t want them telling anybody. Pay attention to what their motives are, and what they seem to care about. You can also ask someone to do something small for you and make it clear that it’s important to you. If they say yes and they do it well, you’re probably on the right track.

It’s also important to note that trust and connection are a two way street. If someone trusts in you, but you never trust in them, then your connection will only make it so far. This is a pitfall many people fall into because they have been burned in the past. If you want to be around someone, you are going to need to not only share experiences, but trust as well. You will need to talk about yourself honestly. But if you own your choices and acknowledge when you’re wrong, trust can grow quickly.

By being a base of trust and trustworthiness yourself, you make it possible for trust to grow. You help to increase the number of trustworthy people in your community. The more comfortable others feel, the more likely they will be to follow suit.

You and John are put on a team together. You haven’t met before. But you have to work together. So you sit down to brainstorm on how to achieve your objective. Every time you have an idea, he asks you to expand on it. For each milestone, he asks for your input on his work and compliments what you do. He tells you the story about how he found himself in the elevator with the CEO on Halloween dressed as a chicken. He defends your work when someone raises a question. He spills coffee all over his keyboard. What do you do?

Practice Suggestions

  • Smile at someone you pass on the sidewalk
  • Tell someone something embarrassing about yourself – you can keep it small.
  • Show that you are reliable – do what you say you will do
  • Don’t gossip
  • Ask someone to do something small for you. See if they actually do it.
  • Tell someone something small but personal about yourself. Say it’s between you two. See if it stays that way.
  • If people show themselves as trustworthy with small things, move on to medium things. 
  • Do not put yourself in danger with someone you haven’t learned to trust yet.
Scroll to Top