How Do We Know if We Can Trust Someone?

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Image credit: photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Many of us trust too easily only to discover that we were betrayed. Others of us don’t trust at all. Trusting too quickly, or not trusting at all, usually says more about us than about the other person. Trust is not something that we want to automatically do when we meet someone.

We also don’t want to automatically mistrust someone either. Some of us experience an involuntary response to trust, or not to trust, and neither one of these extremes serve us well. 

Trust is something that takes time. It’s a process.

Trust is a process

When I say, trust is a process, it means that it takes time to get to know someone. If we enter a relationship at a slow and steady pace, we will discover more about who the other person’s true self. We can then determine whether they can be trusted with our feelings, and our shared personal information, because our trust is the greatest gift we can give someone.

Finding the Balance

Some of us were betrayed early in life, and we don’t trust easily because of that. Others so desperately want to be in a relationship, or a friendship, that we rush to trust someone to make that happen. We don’t give ourselves the opportunity, and time, to get to know that person to determine if they are trustworthy, or not. 

In adulthood, often not being able to trust a friend, or a potential romantic partner, may be because we have been betrayed in our childhood, adolescence, or at some time as an adult. The person desiring our trust may very well be trustworthy, however we may not be able to recognize this due to our history. 

Our Past Relationships Reflected in The Present

One of the first big tasks of our lives is establishing trust versus mistrust. As a child, we develop a sense that our needs will be met, versus a sense that they won’t. Our view of the world is often determined by how secure we feel that we can rely on others for our expectations to be met.

If we have had good, consistent relationships in the past, we may assume as much from our current and future relationships, and trust too easily based upon this experience. 

If our parents, or our experiences in past relationships, were inconsistent in meeting our needs, we may fear current and future relationships will respond the same way. We make ourselves vulnerable when we trust. Withholding our trust may be used as self-preservation to protect us from being hurt again. How can I trust myself from past mistakes?

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Sometimes it is challenging to differentiate to determine if we are not feeling trustworthy of someone else. Is it about them? Or is it about our own history? So many times, I have heard during psychotherapy sessions that, “My friend is talking about other people and I’m uncomfortable. I don’t know if I ought to trust them or not.”

The reality is sad, but most likely true, if another person is talking about others, we can probably count on them talking about us.

It Is You, It’s Not Me

There are people in this world that are truly good, authentic, and trustworthy, and there are also people that are not. There are those individuals who on the surface appear to be trustworthy yet have an ability to hide who they truly are and the truth about themselves. Thus, the challenge sometime is how to differentiate who and who is not trustable and how much of our own unresolved history may be playing out in trying to determine this. 

Start by Trusting Ourselves

Some of the pitfalls that we come across in adulthood is not being able to trust someone. 

Often this lack of trust makes it more difficult to develop an emotionally healthy, deep connection because there is often suspicion, and a fear of getting hurt, and thus a withholding of ourselves. This fear makes us unwilling to share and disclose our true self.

The benefits of expanding the relationship are overshadowed by the fear of pain and betrayal. We may not realize we are having more trouble trusting ourselves than what we are accurately feeling about the other person. Can they be trusted?

Withholding trust can be an important form of self-defense. When we trust, we make ourselves vulnerable, and although that can bring rich rewards in the right relationship, it can be disastrous when our trust is misplaced.

Katherine Hawley, Ph.D., author of Trust: A Very Short Introduction.

Who Can We Trust? 

Unfortunately, however, if we have been hurt by another untrustworthy person, either in childhood or adulthood, we may have trouble trusting ourselves to know whether someone is trustable.

This self-doubt may stand in the way of our intuition, or natural knowing the fear that we may be wrong about someone may prevent us from feeling the truth of someone’s trustworthiness. 

The most effective way to know if another person is trustworthy is to tune into our own gut. 

Staying connected to self is probably the most important way to measure if someone else is to be trusted or not. This tuning in requires mindfulness and checking in with one’s own emotional, and physical, reaction.

How do we feel emotionally?

  • When we are with them do we feel comfortable? 
  • Do we feel emotionally safe? 
  • Do we feel supported? 

How do we feel physically?

  • If we feel “relaxed” or calm and have kind of a ahh sense with someone, this may indicate that the person we are with is trustworthy. 
  • If we feel anxious, or detect tension in our bodies, or some other type of uneasiness, it may mean that the other person is not trustworthy.

Trust is a Precious Gift

Trust can be a gift that we can give by being our authentic self with integrity. A way of us feeling good about ourselves and that we are someone who keeps confidences.

Someone who follows through with what we say we are going to follow through with and being that trustworthy person. What a gift that is to give to someone else. Someone close to us or someone we are acquainted with given the fact that a lot of people have trust issues.

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