We are not entitled to other people’s trust. Instead, everyone is entitled to ‘the benefit of the doubt’ (it is a basic dignity principle); but we must not take it for granted or abuse it. When people give us the benefit of the doubt, we are the only ones responsible for the way in which our actions will build or damage their trust in us.
Without trust relationships fail.
While I have said that it is up to us to build and maintain other’s trust, it is also true that it is very difficult to build relationships when people are constantly making others prove themselves worthy. I understand, some people have had their trust betrayed and find it difficult to trust others again. But operating under the premise that people are guilty until proven innocent makes it very hard for everyone involved. Relationships will not flourish under that pressure.
How do you know who you can trust? Let’s not get confused, that we give people the benefit of the doubt does not mean we should stop being cautious. We can keep ourselves safe by using the 3 integrity keys (explained below) to identify patterns of behaviour, set boundaries and manage your expectations.
Integrity is key indicator that people can be trusted.
What does integrity mean? It means that words, thoughts, and actions are integrated, that they are one and the same. Integrity is the practice of being true to yourself, it’s not something you do for other’s sake.
Integrity requires us to:
Be honest, sincere.
Do people have to guess what you are really thinking? Can people trust what you say? Do they find out through others that what you said was not true? It is better to say: ‘I would rather not speak about that’, ‘I don’t really know the answer’, or ‘I don’t understand it’ than to lie. As a rule of thumb: Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t be mean when you say it. Ask yourself: Why am I saying this? Is it for selfish reasons? How is it helpful? Can I say it in a way that builds rather than destroys? Remember, some things don’t need to be said, for they benefit no one. Are you prepared to take responsibility for what you say?
Honour your word.
Do you say one thing and do something different? Do what you say so will do. It is far better to say: ‘I will think about it’ than to commit to something and not follow through. If this happens often, people will not trust your word. Sure, sometimes things happen that prevent us from following through, in those cases:
Take responsibility for your actions.
You’ve said something wrong, made a mistake, or hurt someone with your words? Own up. Take responsibility for it and apologise. Made a promise you couldn’t keep? Don’t let it become a habit. Something happened that prevented you from following through? Don’t try to blame others, downplay the consequences, or play the victim; apologise, make amends, and follow through.
*Elements of Integrity adapted from the definition by Ross Campbell and Carole Sanderson Streeter in Kids in Danger: Disarming the Destructive Power of Anger in Your Child.