By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
How do you decide who and when to trust?
People often described themselves as having “trust issues.” The question they should be asking is, are they trusting too much or too little? Trusting is a complicated issue. How much you trust is affected by your personality and your past experiences. The level of trust you have will and should change with the circumstance.
Trust has been studied largely in 2 situations. Individuals are largely concerned about the trustworthiness of their partners in romantic relationships. Occasionally, this extends to their ability to trust friends or people with whom they conduct financial transactions.
Companies have studied trust in the workplace. It can take a long time to develop group cohesion and teamwork. People today move from job to job, work with consultants, and contractors, and may work in small, temporary work groups. Productivity increases when new workers develop trust in each other.
Here are some factors affecting trust you need to consider.
Trust is challenged when you meet new people.
Trust generally develops slowly over time. The longer you know someone, the more you know about them, the more you will feel inclined to trust them. Some people are extroverts, very outgoing and easily able to strike up a conversation with strangers. If you’re an introvert, you may find you are wary when meeting new people.
Trust in these situations should be limited. Those who learn to use small talk do better in these situations.
Trust varies with the role this person will have in your life.
You will have one type of trust when you meet a new employee at work. The company selected this person, and it’s reasonable to trust they can do the job they were hired for. You will have a different type of trust with the new doctor or mechanic. This trust is based on their education, license or certification, and the setting in which you meet them.
Your trust should be different in both kind and quantity on a first date. You probably should trust the cashier at the grocery store to ring up your purchases and give you the correct change. You wouldn’t trust that same person to spend the weekend unchaperoned, with your spouse.
You should have levels of trust.
Trust is not an all or nothing characteristic. You’ll have people you trust at school or work, but you should not trust them with the keys to your house or your bank card and pin number. People who said they have “trust issues” often over-trust when they first meet a new person. Because of this excess trust, they are more likely to be hurt when that person fails to live up to their expectations.
Are you more trusting of strangers?
The longer you know someone, the more you learn about their faults. Far too many people jump into a romantic, sexual relationship, on a first or second date. They are trusting this other person because they want them to meet their needs. What they haven’t done is spend the time to get to know them and find out how trustworthy they are.
Your general level of trust is a part of your personality.
The characteristics we call personality are a mixture of your genetic material and your life experiences. How much you trust generally can also be affected by the way you think and the choices you make. Most people have some general underlying beliefs about who to trust, how much to trust, and when they should be trusting.
When many people first meet a new person they use their default level of trust. They are either high in trust or high in distrusting. The longer you know someone, the more information you have about that person, the more likely you are relying on information rather than a general level of trust.
Trust is influenced by the experiences you had before you met them.
Your early life experiences set your baseline level of trust. In mental health, we look at ways young children relate to others based on their experiences with their primary caregiver. Problems in these relationships are diagnosed as attachment disorders, which can be either reactive or disinhibited. Attachment disorders used to only be diagnosed in children, but recently was moved to the group of diagnoses referred to as “trauma- and stressor-related disorders.” With time, treatment, or both, many people alter these patterns of relationship. For some people, however, their adult “trust issues” can be traced back to having caregivers in early life who were untrustworthy.
Life experiences, having been involved in relationships with others who violated your trust, can make it more difficult to trust in the future. If your partner had an affair, it could be hard to trust them again. If you separate from them and begin a new relationship, you’re likely to find you will have difficulties trusting that new partner.
Trust involves things you can’t check on.
Trust is what they will do when you are not watching. If you are standing there watching what they are doing, there’s very little trust involved. One of the best ways to increase your level of trust is to observe what people are doing. Unfortunately, there are too many things in life for you to check up on all of them. That’s where you need to use your trust skills.
Relationships that involve a lack of trust can become very dysfunctional. If you find the need to follow your partner around, check their cell phone, and read their email, this lack of trust can destroy your relationship. Healthy couples can talk about their concerns.
Constant checking your partner can be a sign of excessive or even pathological jealousy. Some people develop delusional jealousy believing their partner is cheating on them even when there’s no evidence. If you have trust issues, you need to ask yourself if this is about them or is it about your fears and insecurities?
No amount of monitoring can prevent someone from violating your trust. You either must trust people or end the relationship. If a lack of trust and jealousy characterizes all your relationships, consider getting some professional help.
What are the risks of trusting this person in this situation?
It’s easy to trust when the risks are low. When you are faced with “trust issues” consider what are the risks? Some situations are relatively low risk. You go to make a purchase and hand them some money. You are trusting that they will give you your merchandise and your change. Giving them 20 dollars at the grocery store is low risk. Paying cash to someone you just met in an alley for something valuable is a high-risk situation.
What has been your experience with trust? Have you been too trusting? Or does your excessive lack of trust damage your relationships?
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Staying connected with David Joel Miller
David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.) Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.
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Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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