It is much harder to gain someone’s trust than it is to lose it. And few people are comfortable when someone says, “Trust me.” Having to say it at all makes a person suspicious.
Love is something you give. Trust is something 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 $1,000 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 gaining someone’s trust:
- Your personal history
- Your ability to meet their expectations of behavior
- Your wiliness to live within their rules of interaction
- Your demonstration of effort
That list seems very unfair 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 you to gain someone’s trust.
YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY
This one almost needs no comment. Your reputation is a hard thing to live down. People do judge you by your past when it comes to trust. If you want to gain someone’s trust, you are going to have to accept the fact that your past plays a role on whether or not people trust you. If you’ve messed up in the past, are now repentant, and wish to change, then study the other three factors in this article. You can overcome this, but it will take time.
To the best of your ability, build a trustworthy reputation. Show people who you are someone who can be counted on. If people know that you are a gossip, they probably won’t tell you any secrets. It’s just the way it is. The next three steps will help you to build a trustworthy reputation that will help you gain someone’s trust.
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 gain someone’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 trusting him to shake my hand the next time is out of the question.
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 provide a product that does what it claims it will do. 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, it is easy to 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 someone’s 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–mostly unwritten.
My wife wears a wedding ring. That ring sets a boundary for every other man but me. It tells every man that she is someone’s wife, that she is off-limits. 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 parents’ trust in them.
If you are trying to gain someone’s trust, then it might be wise to sit down with them and find out their rules and expectations. 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 my 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 gain 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 breach, 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. But that goes back to those expectations and rules. Still, if you don’t make any effort, you only widen the gulf between you. If you really want to gain someone’s trust, you will need to put in the effort.
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