Five Quick Steps To Build Trust (Even if You Are Scared To Let Your Guard Down)

Filed under: Personal Growth

Liars are everywhere. We meet them every day, in the workplace, on the bus, and in our families. Dare we even mention politics? For better or worse, lying is an essential part of being human. It allows us to sidestep guilt in favor of a truth that shines a more favorable light upon ourselves. However, the shadow it casts is still a lie.

And why is trust important?

Trust ties us together. It makes the dark forest of our lives into a place where fear evaporates, and understanding can bloom. Trust is important because we are left alone and unsupported without it.

Step 1: Be Vulnerable

Ah, the dreaded secret. We don’t want anyone to know because it might shatter our illusion of ourselves, that shadow we cast. It’s painful. Revealing anything that makes us uncomfortable always will be. While there is some merit to talking about the driving force of courage, it would be misleading.

When we talk about trust, we talk about vulnerability. 

Everyone is vulnerable to some extent or other. Consider the introvert who gets invited to a party. They might think, “I don’t know anyone, so why should I go?”. They say, “I’m worried that people will think I'm weird because talking makes me uncomfortable.” 

Instead of interacting with people at the party, they stand in the corner, half-heartedly sipping a beer every so often. You might even hear a grunt or two from them whenever someone musters the nerve to talk to them. Their fear of showing their vulnerability ultimately causes them to feel like the "weirdo in the corner."

How different might that night be if our introverts revealed their vulnerability? Suddenly, their actions wouldn’t seem strange at all. 

A simple, "Hey guys, I'm just a bit shy and like to spend time alone, but I'm trying something new. Thanks for understanding." There would be an understanding between the partygoers because everybody now trusts each other.

Ready to do a quick exercise that will help you become more aware of yourself? You just need a notepad, something to write with, and a few minutes of your time. 

Simply create a list for each question:

#1 - What makes you vulnerable? (here are some common ones to help you start)

  1. Admitting you don’t know an answer a student expects you to have
  2. Admitting you need help and asking for the help
  3. Saying no. Will people still like me if I say no?
  4. Being alone with your thoughts
  5. Messing up while everyone watches
  6. Feeling like someone is laughing at you

#2 - What secrets do you keep locked behind a screen of lies to feel better about yourself?

We will admit that it is hard to know what you don’t know about yourself.  

Here is an example you may find helpful: 

A wife looks at her husband, silent yet frustrated. Her mind is racing with thoughts, “why didn’t he wash the dishes? Didn’t we fix this last night? Doesn’t he realize it is disrespectful to me to leave a mess when all I do is clean?”

If this resonates with you, you may have swallowed the lie that you keep your thoughts to yourself because you are being polite. In reality, you could be silent because you are afraid to be left alone. The risk of saying what's on your mind is not worth the price of the possibility that your partner may leave you because of what you said.

We can discover these things through pointed reflection and honest discussion as we journey through life.  

Step 2: Create Emotional Safety

We might ask ourselves: Why should I trust at all? The simple truth is that trust builds emotional safety.

A single mother needs to go grocery shopping but taking her three kids to the store is a hassle. It will take longer, and, in the end, she’ll have to go back out because she’s forgotten something. 

What to do?

A babysitter is an option; someone can watch her kids long enough for her to spend the forty minutes it takes to pick up the essentials. This relationship requires trust. If the individual is untrustworthy, the mother will still carry that worry around, perhaps worse than if her children are there. The thought: “Are my children safe?” hounds her.

Since lying destroys trust, it also eliminates the foundation for an emotionally stable and safe relationship. Our introvert suffers the same problem. By refusing to share their vulnerability, what they are saying is, “I don’t trust you .” (Read: Achieve Your True Potential Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

The simple fact is that we can only do so many things. The myth of multitasking is a comforting one but still a lie. Our brains are hardwired to perform one task at a time. Suppose we have to worry constantly about our emotional safety. In that case, we’re not going to be much good at anything else.  

Take another look at that list. How many of your relationships understand your vulnerabilities? Why are you comfortable sharing with some people but not others?

Step 3: Build Social Safety

Much like our blog post on Baby Steps, trust builds over time. 

In one of those supremely unfair coincidences, it's also one of the few values we can tear down in a fraction of its build time. 

Evolution shows us that we are less likely to be killed by a predator if protected by a group. Even though most of us do not face death by predators, we are still running this old safety program in numbers through our genetic code. To be included in the nomadic group, you must follow the unspoken rules and demonstrate your trustworthiness with consistency. Today for many groups, that same belief still reigns supreme. When you join a Facebook group, have you noticed there are often rules and questions you have to agree to follow? Have you ever been removed from a group for breaking a rule? It doesn’t feel good. On a biological tier, social interactions reduce the level of a hormone called tachykinin that causes aggression and agitation. Social interactions meet many of our basic human needs, from safety to self-worth.  

We must consider then that we will undoubtedly place our trust in others, and they will also place their trust in us. Trust is essential to communities. It lets our kids play in the streets, allows websites like Tinder to exist, and lets friends gather after long separations. 

Trust is essential because, without it, none of these are possible.

Without diving too deep into the current cauldron of discontent, we have only to look at our pandemic and the expansion of mask mandates. On the surface, this is a straightforward trust exercise: “I wear my mask to keep you safe, and you wear your mask to keep me safe.” It's reciprocal and based on trust. I’m taking care of you, is the message sent. It costs nothing, yet we have all seen the pandemonium this simple exercise brings. In the most extreme of cases, this lack of trust has kept people out of public places for the better part of two years.

While the above example has played out globally, most of us need not concern ourselves with the policy involved. We must consider our immediate communities and how we can build trust throughout.

Ask yourself: Are there certain people that I don’t trust? Are there certain people that don’t trust me? Cross-reference this with your list of vulnerabilities. We can create our path to emotional safety through our community by doing so.

Step 4: Schedule Self Reflection

You know that we value self-reflection if you’ve read our other posts, including dealing with trust. Trust exists because we believe in others and ourselves, yet trust can also erode quickly. To understand why we must revisit lying and consider its actual consequences. 

As we’ve established, everyone lies, and that’s okay. Most of us don’t rise out of bed in the morning and declare, “What evil can I do today?” Most of the lies we tell are innocuous. They don’t mean anything. 

Only, that’s a lie too.

Every lie we tell destabilizes the foundation of the trust we have built, in ourselves, other individuals, and the communities we have joined. It can feel easy to lie when they sprout from the limits of our subconscious. They can be intentional. Whatever the purpose or the reasoning, each lie acts according to its nature, insidiously tearing down the trust we have earned.

Set your two lists aside and ask yourself: What lies have I told today? Write them down. Now take a look at the rest of your notes. How many of the lies did you say today have you repeated? How many are there to hide your vulnerabilities? It might be difficult, but the positivity that results from knowing where and why we tell our lives will repay us in untold dividends. You can do this. 

Step 5: Apply the Change

We’ve spent a good deal of time working through our vulnerabilities and our patterns of trust, our lies, and why we might be telling them. It’s easy to make lists like that, but even more imperative that we apply them.

Again we must reflect and ask ourselves: What kind of life do I want to live? In understanding why we lie and the consequences they will have on our lives (including other people), we can begin to shape new behaviors toward self-improvement. 

This process will take effort. We’ll slip up from time to time and revert to previous behaviors that only lead to hardship.

That’s okay. Failure is only feedback.

We must remember, at all times, no matter what, that we can fall as many times as we need to as long as we keep getting up. There is very rarely a single solution to any problem. We are the great explorers of our world, and just as there are many paths to explore it, there are many paths to improve who we are. 

In the end, the only one who can make these changes is you. So we permit you.

Trust yourself.

If you need some help with this path, we have a Personal Growth Membership our students love. Check it out, and we hope you have a wonderful day.