When trust is embedded into our daily lives as a norm, we as a whole become healthier and happier.
There are just a few elemental forces that hold our world together - one being: TRUST.
Its the foundation of all (good) relationships; allowing us to live and work together, feel safe and belong to a collective.
Trust allows us to flourish, while the absence of it can cause fragmentation, conflict and even war. That’s why we need leaders, communities, friends and families we can trust.
Though it's hard to define what trust is, we immediately know when it's lost. When that happens, we withdraw our energy and level of engagement. We go on an internal strike, not wanting to be sympathetic to the person who we feel has hurt us or treated us wrongly.
We may not show it, but we are less likely to tell the formerly trusted person that we are upset, to share what is important or to follow through on commitments.
We pull back from that individual and no longer feel part of their world. This loss of trust can be obvious or somewhat hidden - especially if we pretend to be present but in reality disengage. And those who have done something to lose our trust may not even know it. So, trust can be a tricky thing.
On the positive side, when trust is intact, we willingly contribute what is needed; even going the extra mile, not just by offering our presence, but also sharing our dedication, talent, energy and honest thoughts.
One dictionary definition of trust is “feeling safe when vulnerable”; we depend on an individual, we can feel vulnerable, and rely on this person. When trust is present, things go well; but when trust is lost, the relationship is at risk.
If the level of trust is low in a relationship or organization, people limit their involvement and what they are willing to do or share. In contrast, when the trust level is high, people reward it by giving more.
Trust is often related to leadership and authority, but it is not a given. Any successful relationship relies on a level of trust that must be earned.
Yet even trust that is earned can be quickly lost and may not be quickly regained. If members of a team or relationship lose trust in each other, it takes a great deal of work to restore it. People are not quick to reinvest in a relationship where trust has been broken.
Building Blocks of Trust
Since trust is so important in all relationships, how can we observe it, build upon it and heal it when it becomes frayed?
Reliability and Dependability: A person that is true to their word and fulfills their commitments encourages trust.
Transparency: People are anxious about unknowns and tend to assume the worst when they’re not informed about a situation. Expressing honest opinions and being open gives permission for others to do the same.
Sincerity and Authenticity: People can often sense when someone says something that is not aligned with what they are feeling inside. When a person is insincere or inauthentic, others don’t believe them. A person who says one thing but acts differently is not consistent or trustworthy.
Fairness: Some people act as if the needs and desires of others are not important, or they don’t truly listen or respect others. Trust cannot grow in a relationship where it’s all about one person, where all the energy is focused on one side.
Openness and Vulnerability: If a person never says they are wrong and apologizes or acknowledges their mistakes, others do not feel comfortable disagreeing with them or sharing their own thoughts. An appropriate and timely apology or admission of being wrong is a powerful key to build or rebuild trust.
All of these qualities contribute to the degree of trust people have for each other. To build or rebuild trust, you must open the conversation and be open to hearing what others feel and need as well.
It takes courage to bring up loss of trust and to request that another person modify their behavior. This may lead to learning that you need to look at your own behavior too. Trust is a two-way street, built by the behavior of each person in the relationship.
Trust is often lost when we feel hurt by another’s action and believe that this action (or inaction) was intentional. But by sharing our feelings with the person who hurt us, we might begin to see things differently and realize that their intention was not what we imagined. This may repair the breach quickly as misunderstandings are unraveled and communication deepens.
If we feel that we have done something to lose the trust of another, we can seek the other out and inquire about what has happened. Yes, this can feel awkward and difficult and might not be something that comes naturally. But this willingness to be vulnerable can ultimately lead to greater trust because the other person feels that their own vulnerability and needs are being respected.
The dynamics of trust are delicate in important relationships, and the loss of trust can be costly - not only psychologically, but also financially and in terms or work and livelihood. What’s helpful to remember is that trust is an ongoing exchange between people and is not static. Trust can be earned. It can be lost. And it can be regained.