I admit I am not naturally good at trusting people. As a consequence, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the terms on which I might be willing to trust. What qualities is it that make a person trustworthy? If my trust is going to be partial (it usually is) then to what degrees and in what ways does it make sense to trust people?
I think too often we go into situations assuming other people should trust us. The flip side of not trusting, is not expecting to be trusted and expecting to have to earn that.
- Backing up words with actions. I don’t expect people to take me at my word until I’ve demonstrated that I can and will do what I said I’d do. However, I do get annoyed when I’ve repeatedly demonstrated I can do the things, and am still treated as untrustworthy in those areas. At that point, refusal to trust becomes a way of reducing and controlling a person.
- New and different mistakes. We all make mistakes. I don’t find errors to be a barrier to trust unless a person keeps making the same mistakes after they’ve been flagged up. When someone persists in causing the same problem in the same way, it looks a lot like intention, not incompetence.
- Thinking things through: I tend to trust people who demonstrate a willingness to work things through and reason things out. What I trust here is that this kind of process shows willingness to see things differently and to seek solutions rather than blame. I can trust the integrity of someone’s reasoning without needing them to agree with me or see things as I do.
- Physical trust. This is a hard one for me – to trust another person both to be kind to my body if I get close, and to trust them not to have a problem with me. I’m an emotionally intense person, and it is hard to hide that when being hugged. Trusting people to accept me as I am and not to take physical advantage is hard. It takes time.
- I do not trust people who don’t listen to me. I do not trust people who show signs of treating me like a resource they can use. I do not trust people who take me for granted, or people who treat any emotional expression from me as though I am a massive drama queen. It’s taken me a long time to trust that I’m not a massive drama queen and do not deserve to be dismissed at the first sign of emotional expression.
- In terms of trying to earn trust, I offer honesty and clarity. At least with words. And enough honesty to make clear that I habitually lie with my body. I don’t express pain, depression, anxiety, or exhaustion if I can help it. I hide those things because this helps me function. But I will speak honestly. It means asking people to trust what I say, not what I look like. I am more inclined to trust in turn people who take me at my word rather than seeing how I present and how it doesn’t fit their expectations around what a person in pain should look like. In turn, I will trust people’s words. If someone tells me something, I will assume that is the more substantial truth than any appearances that seem to conflict with it. I can’t say this always goes well, but it is a deliberate choice to do for others what I am often asking for myself.
Trust is a process. It is something you have to build between people. Granted, most people are good and well meaning. The trouble is, that you cannot immediately see the ones who are narcissists, abusers, assaulters, rapists. They tend to be good at passing themselves off as ok, at least in the short term. It’s how they get to do their stuff. The percentage of people I’ve known who have turned out not to be good, or been thoroughly vile, is a small percentage, but they have had a large impact on me. As a consequence, I do not tend to trust the people who treat my innate lack of trust as a failing of some sort. My lack of trust is protective.