In my time working with couples I have learned a lot about building and rebuilding trust. So many partners come in times of trouble, after affairs and lies, hoping to make things better. I am proud of the work I have done with them reconnecting in hard times.
But nothing has taught me more about trust that my own challenges this month. After sharing my partner’s cancer diagnosis with friends and family (and all of you) I have been touched by who and how my community has shown support for us. And nothing grows trust like showing up authentically and reliably for another in difficult times.
I am ever grateful for the support of my community during this difficult time. And for the constant opportunity in my work to share my learning about trust and relationships.
Based in both my formal learning and my personal experience, here’s are the basics of building trust:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
The first key to building trust is to be honest in the first place. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz asks us to “be impeccable with your word.” Be careful to speak only in truth to build trust with people you love.
2. Show Up and Follow Through
Building trust takes tiny investments over time- like deposits in a bank. When we faced challenges the most impactful support came from folks who just remembered something tough was going on and showed up. They texted, send cute animal video links, and offered cooking. They sent cards and hugs. Tiny, quick actions meant huge investments in relationship trust accounts.
Walking your talk or following through on commitments is one of the simplest ways to build back trust. When you make a commitment or promise be sure to see it through. Every time you see things through you build credibility.
3. Have Boundaries
Clear and consistent boundaries help us know what to expect in relationships. The more honest we can be about our boundaries and expectations the greater trust will grow in relationships.
4. Show Empathy
One of the most difficult steps in rebuilding trust is demonstrating empathy. All too often we jump to defensiveness when we’ve hurt someone else- instead of connecting with their hurt feelings. Showing true care for the emotions of the person we’ve wronged can be a critical salve to the trust wound. Don’t rush past this part of the process.
Similarly, we often forget to apologize directly and openly to the person we’ve hurt. Most often we’ve been feeling so bad about hurting someone we’ve said it 100 times in our heads- but never out loud to our friend. Don’t overlook the importance of a genuine apology.
Ask yourself where you can focus on building trust in your relationships this week. Notice how bringing these five paths to trust into focus you strengthen the relationships around you.