9 Keys to Fostering Trust in any Relationship

9 Keys to Fostering Trust in any Relationship

The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.

This is a fact. This being the case, are you making your relationships a priority? How do you focus on, and build the quality of the relationships in your life?

There are many factors that go into building strong relationships but there is one common denominator.

They all work toward establishing Trust.

Trust is the pillar of all of our relationships. Whether we are talking about business, personal or family, it is the foundation that everything else is built on. Without a solid foundation for our relationships no amount of effort will allow them to flourish over the long haul.

I could rattle off a list of 9 platitudes with a click baity title and call it a day but I am getting so sick and tired of the superficial bullshit that gets passed as journalism these days. It seems researchers spend more time trying to find out what will make you click a link then actually teach you something.

I write in order to learn. If I write about a subject it is because I believe the topic is important enough in my own life to invest time and energy learning. If you read my article https://mikecameron.ca/2015/07/21/what-if-you-were-born-with-super-powers-but-nobody-showed-you-how-to-use-them/ you will know that teaching is one of the best ways to learn.

Like so many things in life, Trust isn’t built in large, grandiose gestures, trust is built on the accumulation of small moments.

In this article I will give you a list of key components to building trust in any relationship.

I will then define those components, explore why they are important to building trust and talk about ways to implement them in your daily life. When you are done reading I would like to hear from you in the comments as to what you are going to take away and put into practice in your life.

Own It!

It all begins here. You need to take full responsibility for building trust in your relationships. There is no blame. It is not the other person’s fault. You are 100% responsible.

This is important because it shifts control back to you. The only thing that you have ultimate control over is you. If someone is not understanding what you are saying perhaps it is in how you are delivering the message. Again you can control how you deliver it you cannot control how they receive it. Sure you can try and use manipulative tactics to try and control the other party but I can assure you this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to building trust.

When you find yourself starting to think “they are just not getting it”, draw your attention back to you and how you are delivering the message. Question yourself first. Is there something I could do differently if I value this relationship and want to build trust between us? It may be that you do not value the relationship and are not willing to put in the time and effort. If that is the case acknowledge it and move on.

Acceptance

We need to accept others where they are and for who they are. Not some potential future version that we would like them to be.  

If the person on the other end of the relationship feels that you are 100% OK with who they are then they are far more likely to trust you. They can drop their guard and allow themselves to be seen. This is a practice and an artform.

Please do not confuse this with accepting behaviors that are harmful to you or your loved ones. I am talking about accepting a person for who they are without judgement. You then have the choice to decide whether or not this is a relationship you want to foster or not.

One of the best ways to build trust is to demonstrate unconditional acceptance. So many of us have deep seated insecurities that can make it difficult to trust another human being. The more you can demonstrate unconditional acceptance the more secure the other party will become in the relationship allowing trust to blossom. Acceptance means that sometimes you need to put aside your personal views and allow for others opinions to come through unchallenged.

Respect

Without respect in a relationship there can be no trust. The opposite of respect is contempt. When contempt rears it’s ugly head all trust is gone. I know it firsthand. When my ex and I got to the end of our relationship it was clear that there was no respect left for one another.

Relationship expert John Gottman uses the metaphor of the four horsemen of the apocalypse to describe communication styles that will doom any relationship. Contempt is described as the second horseman.

How do you practice respect? It is in the way you treat others. It does not mean there will not be times when you are disrespectful, I mean, lets face it, none of us is perfect, but if we enter into the relationship with that intention we can use that intention to govern our words and our actions.

For me respect comes back to that golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Consistently. Not situationally. Respect is demonstrated when you show, not tell, the other that you consider and value their feelings, opinions and viewpoints.

Honesty

This one seems like a bit of a no brainer but it is worth discussing. When we talk about honesty we need to extend that to ‘lies of omission’. You know what I am talking about. Those things we neglect to mention because we have a perception that perhaps they will be construed in a negative light. Honesty is a fundamental underpinning of building trust in any relationship.

Drop the Mask

We all have times when we wear ‘masks’, facades to hide our perceived weaknesses. The concept of dropping the mask comes hand in hand with ‘Showing Up’. When we have the courage to be ‘seen’ it allows the person on the other end to do the same. This one often seems like a chicken or the egg thing. Which comes first, Trust or Vulnerability? This means that sometimes that tough outer shell needs to come down exposing your soft milky center.

Brene Brown has done a plethora of research on the subject of vulnerability and has some amazing work you can see here. When we remove barriers and walls it allows the other to let their guard down and deepen that mutual trust factor.

Be Authentic

It took me many years to figure this one out and it is still a work in progress. Simply ‘being you’ is paramount to building and maintaining trust in a relationship. When you consistently show up as your authentic self there is never any question as to who you are.

That means not trying to project who you think the other person might be attracted to, whether personal or business this is especially true. When we ‘put on airs’ for any reason, and trust me I get it, sometimes the reasons can be altruistic, we reduce the capacity for those around us to trust us. At some point your true nature will surface which will leave the other party unsure about who the ‘real you’ is.

Be sensitive to other peoples ‘Raw Spots’

Have you ever had a time were someone’s reaction to your actions seemed ridiculously disproportionate? A key piece in the equation to building trust is establishing empathy for the other person. Empathy, it is worth repeating is not about feeling sympathy. It is about taking the time to feel what the other person may be feeling. Many times in our relationships we run a little blind. That is we do not always know where the other party is coming from, what life experiences have shaped their perspective or how they came to be the person they are.

In our intimate relationships we have a much greater opportunity to learn these things. Just keep in mind in all your relationships what may be a minor issue to you may well be a significant trigger for the other party. These reactions may be based on some past experience that you have no idea about.

Be inquisitive and share…

Let’s face it, it is almost impossible for us to trust someone who we know nothing about. The more we know about someone the more opportunity we have to build a deeper trust. Take the time to ask questions. Find something about the other person that you are genuinely interested in.

Asking questions may help you understand from their perspective. This ties into the Empathy piece and is a great way to not only learn about the other person but to demonstrate in a meaningful way that you care about them, their feelings and their values.

Keeping in mind that the flip side of this is true as well. Make an effort to share who you are with the other. This ties in to ‘Dropping the Mask’ as well as ‘Authenticity’.

Be Congruent

One of my favorite words in the English language is the word ‘congruence’. It goes hand in hand with reliability. It is about consistently creating moments that build trust, not betray it. It is about living what you say, practicing what you preach. In our professional relationships most of us can think of a time when a supplier or vendor has made a promise that they have not kept or made statements over inflating what their product or service can do.

When our words do not match our actions trust is doomed. It is not just big promises not met rather the accumulation of small commitments not upheld that slowly erode trust.

What you can do right now:
How much of this do you employ in your relationships now? Download this worksheet and find out!  

More resources on Trust

Gottman: The science of trust

Brene Brown The Anatomy of Trust

Sue Johnson: Hold Me Tight

Your thoughts?