Trust

What it really means to trust

What is trust?

Essentially, trust is a concept that means one person has confidence in another that they will behave honourably. Without trust, it is impossible to be able to rely on anyone else at all. It means having faith that a friend, family member or even a stranger will do the right thing. The person who trusts the other is called a trustor. The person who gains the confidence of another is known as a trustee. Sometimes, such confidence is implicit with nothing needing to be said to assure it. In other cases, it is backed up by a contract that can be referred to afterwards if a dispute were to arise. People have trust in one another by varying degrees. The same can be said of many institutions, too, such as banks, the government, public bodies and charities, for example. In sociological terms, it is, therefore, a belief system that allows for all sorts of social interactions to occur without too many doubts causing the normal function of society to break down.

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How is trust earned?

When asking the question of how trust can be earned, it is important to note that the majority of people are likely to consider you to be a trustworthy person from the outset. Mistrust only tends to kick in once you have done something to undermine the confidence others have in you, such as committing a misdemeanour or even a crime, for example. However, being trusted is generally achieved by being honest and open in your dealings with others. For example, you should simply say what you truly believe about people and situations. By avoiding gossip and acting in a socially responsible way, you will be able to demonstrate that you are, indeed, a trustworthy person. If you think about parenting, and the way parents start to gain more confidence in their children as they grow, it soon becomes obvious that what is going on is that the child earns more respect as they show more responsibility for themselves. If you want to earn trust, then act in the same manner.

When trust is broken, what can be done?

If someone has done something to break your faith in them, then mistrust can take hold. It is hard, under such circumstances, to start trusting them once more. This can be a big shame since without a level of trustworthiness between two people, especially in a personal relationship like a friendship, the entire basis that it was built on can break down. Where mistrust exists, you can begin by allowing the person to earn your faith in them back with small steps. Defined areas of responsibility should be placed back onto the person with whom you have lost faith. If they show themselves to be trustworthy, then you can increase the scope of these areas until more and more trustworthiness is shown. You may never achieve the same level of trustworthiness with another person once confidence in them has been broken. That said, many people do recover from a partial, or even a complete, lack of faith in others.

What is meant by trust according to psychology?

According to some psychological theories, ideas of trustworthiness develop in infants even before the age of two. It is a psychosocial phenomenon that lasts a lifetime. Where faith in others is broken in early development, it can have a long-lasting psychological impact on people according to modern ideas of attachment theory. Bear in mind that trustworthiness is not something that psychologists say can only be present in people. Youngsters may have trusted a parent, a sibling or even a teacher who has gone on to lose that confidence, for instance. However, being trusting in something could also come down to an institutional idea. For example, confidence might be lost in a school rather than an individual teacher. According to some psychologists, the worst breaches are at a societal level when an individual mistrust everyone and everything around them. This is usually caused by some severe trauma that causes the mistrust to develop in the first place.

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How can you trust more?

If you are not a trusting person, then you may have been wronged in the past. Consequently, professional psychological help may be beneficial. People who have had a relationship breakdown, for example, often find it hard to become trusting in an intimate sense down the line. In such cases, counselling as a couple can help to build up confidence in one another and to enjoy the happiness that often comes with greater levels of surety in the relationship. In many cases, forgiving wrongdoing is a good first step in overcoming mistrust. Remember that forgiving, in this sense, does not mean forgetting. As such, mistrust is not likely to disappear overnight just because you have found it in yourself to forgive someone else. What it represents, however, is the ability to move on from what may have cause mistrust to develop in the first place. Many people find this approach liberating, but it is not necessarily easy to achieve.

What are the elements of trust?

Many people agree that there are three elements that go into making you a trustworthy person. To begin with, there is consistency. If you say the same things and act in the same way with everyone, then you are quite simply more likely to be trusted and to have fewer people be suspicious of your motivations. The next element in being trusted is communication. If you never express your opinion, for example, then what do others think you really think? Being communicative is essential for trusting relationships to develop because without communication skills, we are really on our own. Compassion is the third element. This is connected to our sense of empathy and understanding of what it would be like to be the other person. Some people add a fourth element in trustworthiness which is competency. This might involve the confidence we have in an airline pilot, for example, being competent at flying an aeroplane. Competency is not universally accepted as an element of trust, however.

What does it mean to be a trusting person?

When you think about what it means to be a trusting person for a moment, you will soon realise that it is really the absence of mistrust that marks such people out. After all, unless there has been some severe trauma that has developed into mental scarring - such as PTSD, for example – most people are initially trusting of others. In other words, trusting people can go about their daily lives without worrying about people potentially trying to do them harm or rip them off. Being trusting is consequently seen by some people as being naïve. However, naïvety is not the same as being trusting because it implies a lack of worldliness. Trusting people can soon turn to mistrust if their faith in someone or something is shaken. A naïve person, on the other hand, is more likely to be taken in by deception. As such, being a trusting person who is still mindful of themselves and their safety is rather a good thing to be.

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How does trust affect happiness?

Why is being a trusting person a good thing to be? This can be answered in numerous ways, but one of the most important aspects of lacking mistrust in your day to day life is that it will probably make you happier. Numerous studies have looked into the relationship between trust and happiness, and the two are linked. Certainly, being trusting is associated with other things that are connected to personal happiness, such as forgiveness, friendship, successful personal relationships – including marriage – and positive mental health. Although such studies have found a connection between being trusting, being trustworthy and being happy, the reason for them to be related is unclear. Perhaps it is simply that the more we feel we can have faith in the world around us, the less stressed we feel in our daily lives? If so, this would account for a correlation between happiness and trust if not a causal link.

What does it mean to have trust issues?

When someone has issues trusting others, it usually means that their usual discourse and daily life is dominated by doubt and mistrust. This can cause difficulties for friends, family members and partners who expect to be trusted by the person concerned but who aren't. Usually, issues surrounding excessive mistrust come about because of a breach of trust early in childhood or that is of an intimate nature. This is why mistrust issues tend to come to the fore during intimate moments, such as sex, or when we are with those who should feel nearest and dearest to us. For some, seeking counselling or psychological help is a way of helping to overcome mistrust. Usually, this is an ongoing process that takes time and is not something that can be resolved within a session or two.

How can you trust your partner after cheating?

Many people who give relationship advice professionally would agree that a partner cheating with another individual is one of the gravest causes of mistrust between two people. Of course, what might be considered to be cheating by one person may not be an issue of trustworthiness in another. What will constitute an issue of mistrust, therefore, is often highly personal, and this makes rebuilding a trusting relationship once more even harder. In short, there is no single set of rules to follow in this situation that will restore trustworthiness. That said, it is best to talk things over when you feel calm and not dominated by your emotions. Don't try to ignore the cheating, either, since this will probably also lead to greater mistrust. Marriage guidance counselling can be useful even if you are not married because it will mean discussing the issues with a neutral third party.

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How do you build trust with someone?

If you show someone that you care about them, then this will go a long way in building trustworthiness between the two of you. Part of what it takes to be more trusted by others is to admit when you have got things wrong and to attempt to be honest, not just with them, but with yourself, too. When someone else you want to be trusted by sees you making these attempts, it will not necessarily lead to immediate feelings of greater faith in you. What you are doing is simply signalling your integrity to them and that you feel you can be trusted. Of course, you can also straightforwardly ask them to have more faith in you but whether they do or not is ultimately down to them. The most you can do is to demonstrate you can be trusted by being honest, straightforward and honouring your commitments. Of course, lying to someone you want to have confidence in you will only have the reverse effect and lead to greater mistrust.

Why is trust important in early childhood education?

The chief reason that trustworthiness is so important in early childhood education is that it will set the tone for all future feelings surrounding the innermost confidence we have with others. To be clear, young children cannot be trusted in the same way that adults can – or should be – trusted. This is because they do not know about the world in the same way that older children do. In short, they don't do untrustworthy things out of malice. Rather they are learning all about the world around them, including issues surrounding trustworthiness. Parents and educators need to explain what being trusting is without scaring children about the potential pitfalls from trusting too much. In this sense, trustworthiness is about being socially aware. Sometimes good and bad things happen, but that doesn't mean we should lose faith in others. This can be a tough lesson to learn at a young age, but it helps with later development and the ability to cope at school.

How does trauma affect trust?

If you are unfortunate to suffer a traumatic event in your life, then it can have numerous negative outcomes. Some people will feel betrayed or suffer from flashbacks whereby they imagine themselves to be in danger. In the worst cases, this can lead to psychological conditions like PTSD. More likely, trauma will affect an individual's ability to place their faith in others. People who have undergone a psychological form of trauma, for example, might find it difficult to be trusting of even their oldest friends. Some might even begin to mistrust their own family members. Often, this is not because they have sound reason to mistrust them but because of their altered mental state. This can have a knock-on effect for the people who are no longer trusted, of course. To overcome this will require patience and compassion, not to mention empathy. In most cases, the passage of time helps issues of mistrust caused by trauma to become less prevalent.

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Trust in summary

In social scientific terms, being able to have confidence in others and institutions means being able to feel that they can be trusted. There are some studies that have tried to find out how placing your faith in something affects the brain. Although scientific theories about the physiological nature of being trusting are at an early stage, to say the least, it does appear that when people have greater confidence in the things and people around them that they experience different neurobiology. Indeed, the greater presence of hormones like oxytocin seems to be the case among trusting people than others who feel greater levels of mistrust in their daily lives.

Trustworthiness is the subject of the earliest forms of dramatic production in Ancient Greece, and even older poetic forms tended to focus on subject matters like betrayal, camaraderie, the nature of friendship and of mistrust. Nevertheless, being trusting and being trusted are generally considered to be sociological phenomena. Bear in mind, too, that it is not just individuals who feel different levels of mistrust and faith. Institutions and even countries can have various levels of trustworthiness associated with them, usually through their dealings with one another. In many cases, issues of trustworthiness are resolved through contract law. Trusting that any breach of a contract will be dealt with independently is an essential part of the way this works. In this sense, the legal institution of marriage, which involves a contract of sorts, is much the same way that people in relationships manage their issues of trustworthiness with one another. As such, human society is largely built to deal with issues of potential mistrust among one another even though being trusted by others is essential for everyday life to take place.

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