Are you wondering how to gain trust in a relationship? This article will offer several examples and scenarios to help you build trust with those in your life.Imagine you are standing in front of your boss’ office. For the past month, you have witnessed a co-worker engaging in illegal practices and it’s eating you up inside. For the past four weeks, you have been playing out different scenarios of talking to the co-worker, or going to your boss, or maybe talking to HR. You spent endless moments working out all the words to a place where you feel comfortable and ready to deliver your message.
After consulting a trusted friend and mentor they advise you to speak with your boss and after pondering the implications you agree. But now that you’re standing in front of their door you are beginning to second guess yourself. The questions begin to swirl and at the core of them are the questions “will he trust me” and “can I trust him”?
How to Gain Trust in a Relationship
Trust is a dance between people, It is symbiotic, and It has the ability to be elusive and difficult to achieve. When you have trust in a relationship you can feel it in your bones. When you don’t have trust, you can feel it in the marrow.
Let’s take this person for example, they find themselves in a position where they could potentially cause a great deal of discomfort and turbulence in more lives than their own. As they stand in front of their employer’s door they should be cognizant of two important factors that establish and maintain trust. Safety and honesty.
In any relationship, we hope that the other party will be honest with us. I have yet to meet a person who enjoys being lied too or being around a liar. From a young age, responsible parents emphasize the importance of being honest. Honesty is universally recognized as one of the most important qualities a human can possess.
Furthermore, as a Christian, you are morally obligated to live a life of honesty. But as we all know, being honest has some serious consequences. Too much of it can hurt the ones we love around us. Telling the truth has a way of creating circumstances that fall beyond our control.
Take, for instance, a child standing in front of his parents. The child has stolen a toy from his sibling and unbeknownst to him, his parents watched the event unfold through the window into the backyard. The parents ask their son to tell the truth about what happened. The son looks at his parents and debates the pros and cons.
The pros and cons of honesty in the mind of a child are the building blocks to trust as adults. Let’s say that the parents are standing over the child with fingers pointed and an edge of anger and disgust in their voices. The child will probably feel vulnerable and intimidated. Honesty may lead to disappointment, physical punishment, or other punitive measures.
Let’s also say that in an alternate universe the same parents kneel down and speak to their child at eye level with calm and soothing voices. The child’s fear response will be less acute and he will be able to speak without emotional flooding at the same time. The punishment may be the same in both scenarios, but the parents have changed the most important factor in the situation. The child feels safe.
When you feel safe, you have the ability to speak your thoughts into words and express yourself without fear of retribution. All words have consequences, but when they are spoken in a safe environment you are able to trust the response of the person who hears them.
I have seen many couples in counseling and one thing I hear quite a lot is one party being upset the other doesn’t share their inner thoughts, secrets, dreams with them anymore. More times than not, the party who is upset is the one who is pushy, demanding, judgemental, and cynical.
The partner can’t remember when they stopped sharing the intimate details of their life with them, but they know that they feel undue trepidation sharing them. At one point and many after, the partner let them know that the sensitive and vulnerable things they say about themselves are going to be handled with prejudice and dismissal.
When you begin to lose trust in your relationship, it can begin to feel like death from a thousand cuts. And often, it isn’t just one big lie that cuts the trust; it is a thousand small things that show us in subtle and quiet ways that we cannot trust this person anymore.
Trust is not something that can be demanded from another in an equal relationship. It is something that is seen, felt, and earned. If we desire trust from a relationship then we need to tread the path for it to walk upon. As mentioned above, when parents have the ability to create a safe environment for their children, they give the child a greater opportunity to be genuine and honest with themselves, similar to the employee who is knocking on the door and preparing to tell her a story.
Regardless of the nature of the information, the boss has the ability to set the stage for her employee. If the boss decides to be gruff and accusatory, the employee may feel the need to back off and reduce the severity of what they saw.
Maybe the boss will be exceptionally inviting and empathetic with the story. The point is, regardless of the information that is about to be delivered, the person accepting the information has an incredibly important role to play.
If you are wondering how to build trust in a relationship, then the first thing you should consider is how safe you are making the environment for the people around you.
Are you able to sit and listen without judgment or are you waiting for your turn to speak so that you can deliver some unsolicited advice? Think about the people you trust and how they communicate with you. They have created a place where you feel safe, and when you feel safe you can be honest.
Trust is built brick by brick in the interactions we have with people. Some bricks are laid at a breakneck speed while others are slowly added and removed over and over. Every time you sit down with your spouse, friend, or sibling you are engaging in a microcosm of filtering and evaluating.
Most of the work is happening behind the scenes while you are focused on what appears to be the content of the words you share back and forth. Just below the surface of the content is a dizzying search for context and continuity.
We are searching for cues that tell us that it’s safe to be vulnerable and exposed with the sensitive parts of ourselves. The more cues we register as friendly, open, understanding, and compassionate, the more we begin to trust.
Learning how to gain trust in a relationship should always start with the person in the mirror. You have no control over what anyone else is thinking, doing, or saying – even your children. You may have authority over the aforementioned items, but they are the ones living it. Don’t try to build trust in someone else. Try instead, to build an environment that fosters safety and honesty.
People who offer up this kind of space are the ones who are leaned on during times of trouble. They have established themselves as a pillar of stability and kindness. Mr. Rogers said it best with “in the space between what’s said and what’s heard in our life, can make all the difference in the world”. Focus on that space, and be resolute in creating the backdrop for safety and honesty.
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