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Think back to every relationship in your life that did not go well or ended badly. It’s a good bet that lack of Trust was somehow involved. A cheating spouse, a lying child, a duplicitous friend or a bad boss all fail to pass the “Trust Test” and since Trust is the foundation upon which any healthy relationship is built, that explains why those relationships are doomed from the start.
What is Trust? Most simply it can be defined as, “I believe in your honesty, character and ability.” This is where every relationship must start, whether it be with your boss, co-workers, friends, children or spouse. Trust is where we must begin when examining any relationship issues or challenges. When built on a solid foundation, relationships can not only thrive, but they can withstand the many ups, downs and challenges along the way. Trust is this foundation. By contrast, when Trust is in doubt, the relationship is on shaky ground from the get-go and often is not sustainable over time. This is why, in my Harmony Pyramid™, Trust is the foundational Tier #1! (See my other posts about the Harmony Pyramid.)
The Harmony Pyramid....
is a useful tool that graphically lays out the universal steps which any relationship must take to reach its greatest potential. It can also be your tool to check the health of your own relationships, at work or at home, and take whatever early steps might be necessary to ensure your foundation of Trust is at its healthiest going forward.
If you have Trust in a relationship now and want to keep it
If you have a relationship now in which you feel complete trust in another, congratulations! But beware: Trust in a relationship must go both ways and this 2-part character can make it a fragile thing. Never take a trusting relationship for granted for it can be easily lost with a careless word or action, whether we are talking about a relationship between spouses, parent and child or employee and boss. How do we keep and protect this precious thing we call Trust and keep the foundation of our relationships strong? The answers are deceptively simple, but time-tested by Mother Nature herself.
1. Be honest
Probably the biggest factor in keeping Trust alive is honesty about your own shortfalls — full and complete honesty, warts and all. Don’t lie, even with little white ones. Don’t keep secrets from each other – they can be as bad as lies. Tell the truth about yourself even when it hurts; even if you have to eat crow. That takes courage, and courage is trusted. Be honest in business, in sports, in everything you do. Do the right thing, even when no one’s looking. Make honor and honesty pillars of your being.
2. Be reliable and predictable
If you make a promise, be sure you keep it. This might be a promise to keep a confidence for a child, to be somewhere at a certain time for your spouse, or even a promise to bring something to a party that your friend, the hostess, is counting on. If you have a meeting with your staff supervisors every Wednesday at 11:30, don’t be late. If you pick up your spouse’s dry cleaning on Mondays for the dress shirts he depends on for work that week, don’t forget.
3. Refuse to say anything bad or unkind about another person in front of others or repeat negative gossip.
You would be amazed at how a careless word can destroy Trust but how grace and kindness can strengthen it. Resist the urge to criticize others in public or jump into a lively office conversation about so-and-so doing such-and-such with you-know-who. Think about what you would want others to be saying about you behind your back. That should be enough to make you pause. By contrast, comporting yourself with grace and kindness always can raise your “trustworthiness score” exponentially. It’s called Character.
4. Take time to understand the other person before you react to them
An awareness of the other person’s feelings and perspective is an important element in retaining their Trust in you. Before you reprimand an employee for misconduct at work, or a child that talks back, consider what might be causing the behavior and respond thoughtfully rather than reactively. This ability to act with reason and wisdom is another part of Character which the other person must believe you possess if they are to trust you.
5. Be careful taking on tasks above your skill level
Remember that a belief in your Ability is also part of Trust. Something simple like promising your spouse that you’ll replace the broken pipe yourself, when you have no knowledge of plumbing will set you up for loss of Trust. It either won’t get done, or the job will be competed with questionable quality or reliability. If that happens, you will probably lose your spouse’s respect and with it, Trust in your promises as well as your abilities.
At work, take on projects that match your skills. In fact, ask for responsibilities that can showcase them. Professionally, become known for top-notch work, so stay within your wheelhouse. Don’t claim skills you do not have but become known for the ones you do.
If Trust in you has been lost and you want to get it back…
If someone has lost Trust in you, know that it won’t be simple to get it back. It will be like lifting a house and repouring the entire foundation, because that is what Trust is: the foundation of everything. It can be rebuilt, but the amount of effort required, or the likeliness of success will depend on the other person’s willingness or resistance to trust again. The more intimate the relationship, the more difficult it might be to rebuild lost Trust. It may be easiest in a workplace with your boss or your staff. It may be more difficult at home with your kids and even more so with your spouse or partner – but it can be worth the effort.
Rebuilding Trust will be an organic process, rather than the wave or a magic wand or the result of a heartfelt apology. There is no magic here and words are cheap, especially coming from someone they do not trust. You will need to prove your trustworthiness over time. When the other person knows that you are not afraid to be consistently honest, you are demonstrating honorable character and proven your abilities over time, their trust in you can take root again, as well as their loyalty.
May we all be worthy of Trust, every day.