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How to Build Trust

by Greg Baker  
4/22/2010 / Marriage


It is much easier to lose someone's trust than it is to gain it. And few people are comfortable when someone says, "Trust me." Having to say it at all makes a fellow wonder.

Love is something that you give. Trust is something that you earn. It always takes significantly longer to gain someone's trust than it does to lose it. So if you have someone's trust, treat it like a rare coin. Don't spend a $1000 rare quarter on a 25 cent piece of gum. If you have someone's trust, it is a very special thing.

There are several factors that go into earning someone's trust:

1. Your personal history
2. Your ability to meet their expectations of behavior
3. Your wiliness to live within their rules of interaction
4. Your demonstration of effort

Actually, none of this sounds fair until you realize that people who want your trust have to demonstrate the same things to you. Let's look at them one at a time and see how they help to build other people's trust of us.

YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY

This one almost needs no comment. Your record is a hard thing to live down. If you've messed up in the past, are now repentant, wish to change, then study the other three factors in this article.

To the best of your ability, have a track record that demonstrates trust to people. Show people that you are trustworthy. If people know that you are a gossip, they probably won't tell you any secrets. It's just the way it is.

YOUR ABILITY TO MEET THEIR EXPECTATIONS OF BEHAVIOR

Everyone has expectations. Sometimes they are unrealistic, and other times they simply don't make much sense. But people expect other people to react in certain manners and ways. If they don't get the expected result, it makes it hard to earn that person's trust.

If I walk up to someone with a friendly smile and reach out to shake his hand and he hits me in the face for it, I will find it impossible to trust him the next time I see him. His reaction was so far outside my expectations that I find I can't trust him.

I expect my neighbor to respect my property. If I come out one morning and find him spraying graffiti all over my garage door, I'll not trust him. I expect a store to give me the correct change. If they cheat me, I lose faith in them and won't go back. I expect a judge to be fair. If he is not, I lose respect and trust in his ability. I expect my friends to help me when I'm in trouble. Maybe I shouldn't, but most do, and when they refuse to help, you lose faith and trust.

I'm not saying that everyone's expectations are fair, balanced, or even justified. This is just the way it is. Everyone has expectations. If you fail to meet those expectations of behavior then you will struggle to gain their trust.

YOUR ABILITY TO LIVE WITHIN THEIR RULES OF INTERACTION

Again, this doesn't sound very fair. But it is reality. Every relationship has rules. It is more than mere expectations of behavior, but specific guidelines of interaction. A marriage has certain rules and if those rules are broken, so is the trust. When we interact with people there are always written and unwritten rules.

My wife wears a wedding ring. That explains a rule to every other man but me, that she is my wife and that there will be no attempts to damage that relationship. That is a rule. If someone breaks that rule, we have a very serious trust issue.

Every parent has rules for their children. If the child wishes to earn his parent's trust, he needs to keep the rules. His willingness to keep these rules earns trust. When teenagers choose friends that are clearly outside the framework of the rules of interaction, they damage their parent's trust in them.

It might be wise to sit down with whomever it is you are trying to earn trust from and ask them, not only their expectations, but their rules as well. When my wife and I were just dating, she became jealous of some of my interaction with other girls at the college we were attending together. Instead of shoving her emotions aside, I decided her trust was more important to me. We sat down and actually wrote out a list of rules on conduct around other women. To this day, I live by those rules and have earned my wife's trust.

YOUR DEMONSTRATION OF EFFORT

How determined are you to earn someone's trust? Your effort in earning their trust always goes a long way in their eyes. Don't wait for them to discover how trustworthy you are. That will just frustrate you.

When you violate their trust, to what lengths do you go to repair it? Making no effort will only damage their trust more. Children and teenagers will make mistakes with their parents, but when they decide not to try to repair the breech; it merely makes the gap of trust larger.

Go out of your way. Learn to say "I'm sorry. I was wrong." Then find some way to try to make up for it.

You may find this difficult, especially if you were hurt too, or you feel you did nothing to violate their trust. That goes back to those expectations and rules. Still, if you don't make any effort, you only widen the gulf between you

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