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5 Strategies to Build Trust and Increase Confidence

How to build trust for great and lasting relationships by modeling mediators.

The ability to build trust is essential to our wellbeing and to our success in life. A few days ago, I was watching an old episode of the TV series Shameless and the dialogue between two lead characters caught my attention. When once again everything seems to crumble around her, Fiona tells her boyfriend Jimmy, who earlier had lied to her, “I trust you!” She paused and then added, “That actually, means much more than if I’d just said 'I love you.'” The line reminded me of what George McDonald, the Scottish writer, said: “It is a greater compliment to be trusted than to be loved.”

What is trust?

Trust is essential to healthy relationships. Since it implies a certain degree of uncertainty, trust is the willingness to be vulnerable to the action of others. Trust is a choice.

Trust means that we have confidence in the intentions and motives of the other party. We trust it to advance and to protect our interests, our wellbeing. We understand trust as being the quality of love, commitment, friendship, and partnership. As Stephen Covey wrote, “trust is the glue of life.”

Is distrust the opposite of trust?

When a breach of trust occurs, our world is shattered. In most cases, though, the opposite of trust is not distrust. Our life experience is much more complex, dynamic, and contradictory than just the trust/distrust opposite conditions. Rather, trust and distrust coexist, and we experience them as ambivalent.

For example, we might trust our boss or our partner in some aspects, and distrust them (or trust them less) in others. I might trust the expertise of a colleague based on his or her scholarship, but distrust the same colleague when it comes to showing up in time for a meeting.

5 strategies to build trust

How then can we build trust? This is an essential skill in today’s world of uncertainties. Here are five strategies I have been using with success in highly volatile situations filled with uncertainties, like when I do peacebuilding work with victims and victimizers in countries affected by armed conflict:

First: Trust with generosity. Jerome Blattner once said, “a person who trusts no one can’t be trusted.” In other words, be the first in trusting. Paraphrasing Mother Theresa, I may add, “give the world your trust and you may get hurt. Give the world your trust anyway.”

Second: Be patient and flexible. Be tolerant of mistakes and don’t be an inflexible judge. Meet the other in his or her condition. Be considerate of events and negative experiences that might have affected one’s ability to trust. Trust is built over time, especially when you deal with someone who wasn’t fortunate enough to have experienced trust in his or her own life.

Third: Be dependable. In other words, be reliable. Take your own words very seriously. Words mirror our soul. They have the capacity to create and equally to destroy. Be loyal and consequent to the given word. Don’t make up excuses and take responsibility for your own mistakes. Don’t be afraid of apologizing when necessary.

Fourth: Be consistent. Cultivate consistency of recurrent behavior. If, for example, you are consistent in arriving on time at meetings, you will strengthen your reliability. You will be trusted if you consistently follow through with promises made and commitments taken.

Fifth: Be open. Be open and transparent in your communication. With respect and sensitivity, share your ideas and honest opinions, even when they contradict those of your interlocutor. Being open and transparent in your communication will help also to diffuse possible mistrustful perceptions.

Building trust in the workplace is essential to our success. It is the secret to a happy marriage. If we learn how to build trust, we will also know how to trust someone. But what should we do when trust is broken? How do we heal damaged trust? I will deal with this issue in an upcoming post.

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