Earning Trust?

We human beings don’t trust very readily. Indeed, many of us feel that others need to earn our trust. But is it really in our best interest to behave this way?

Implications of earning trust

Let’s begin by examining what the requirement of earning trust implies. First, it implies that the person isn’t trustworthy. Second, if neither party trusts the other…because trust hasn’t been earned…then how can trust develop?

You are already seeing the dilemma, aren’t you? So what are our alternatives?

Trust but verify

I wasn’t sure of the source of this phrase, trust but verify, so I did some checking. It seems that it’s an old Russian proverb that President Reagan used in the disarmament discussions with Russia.

On the surface this seems like a reasonable alternative. You’re extending trust, but monitoring to assure that your trust is well placed. But are you really extending trust?

Let’s assume that someone says that they trust you. You begin working with them, but soon discover that they’re regularly checking on what you’re doing. Do you feel that they trust you? Of course not. If they really trusted you, they wouldn’t be monitoring your activities.

Trust and expectation

What I’ve found is that when I extend trust to others, I’m rarely disappointed. You don’t have to trust me on this, recall your experiences.

When others place their trust in you, what is the one thing you don’t want to do? Disappoint them. None of us wants to disappoint someone who believes in us, trusts us so completely that they don’t monitor what we’re doing.

Granting trust carries with it an expectation that the person is going to honor that trust by doing what is expected of them. Because we don’t want to lose the positive image others have of us, we work diligently to honor their trust…to give them reason to continue to believe in and trust us. That’s human nature, that’s how we’re wired.

For you

Extend trust to all knowing that, with rare exception, they’ll do everything in their power to retain the trust and confidence you have in them. In those rare instances when someone disappoints you, let them know that now they are going to have to earn your trust.

I believe in giving second chances. After all, some of the disappointments you experience may be the result of good intentions having gone bad. If the person learned from the experience and is unlikely to repeat the mistake, there’s no reason to withdraw your trust.

If the disappointment is the result of the person intentionally violating your trust or being indifferent to the trust you extended, then they have to earn it. In extremely rare instances, I have not offered a second chance because the person didn’t care enough about their own reputation to warrant trust.

For our kids

Toddlers are probably some of the most trusting people among us, but even they at times have a difficult time trusting others. When the kids in your life don’t trust someone or something, help them trust their instincts. After all, those instincts are there to protect us.

Teach them that in the vast majority of our interactions with others, there is no inherent need to distrust and, consequently, no reason to withhold trust. Help them understand that extending trust triggers in others a desire not to disappoint, to not lose the trust your child offered them. One of the best ways to help them gain this understanding is to ask “Do you want to disappoint someone who trusts in you? Who believes in you?”

Becoming aware of their desire not to disappoint, makes it easier for them to believe that others feel the same way.

Finally, teach them how to react when others disappoint. Help them see the distinction between good intentions gone wrong versus intentional bad acts or a person’s indifference to their own reputation.

You’ll find that your kids lives, and yours, become easier when trust is given generously.

I love hearing readers’ thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts with us.

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program.

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