Trust is such a difficult issue to discuss at times. We all want to be trusted, and we want to able to trust others. I refer to the former as projecting trust and the latter as receiving trust. The traits for each are similar but realistically require different mixtures of them.
- Truth – a series of facts together constitute the truth. The truth allows for people to communicate and interact honestly with the confidence and security of a caring contact.
- Knowledge – Sincere interactions are characterized by knowledge that is based on vast experience and always used in a caring manner.
- Humanity – A trustworthy contact is always conducted with the understanding that we are on equal footing with our fellow citizens. We recognize our shared humanity and wish to help others but help in a humble fashion realizing that we can work together now and in the future.
- Empathy – The ability to understand what others feel and understand the situation of others is vital to learn how to interact with some degree of authenticity in interpersonal relationships.
- Dependability – Our ability to be consistent in our interactions demonstrates how dependable we are. It demonstrates how others see our reactions and the consistency of those reactions. It demonstrates our resolve to act and react in measured ways that are predictable.
- Confidence – It is not always possible to be exceedingly confident in all of our interactions, but reasonable confidence tells others that we will seek to be honest in our interactions.
- Vulnerability – When one is vulnerable, they accept that they are not intrinsically better than someone else. They accept that others are not inferior to them. They accept that their failings are similar, if not identical at times, to those of their fellow citizens. They accept that they can be wrong or at least not as right as they were initially convinced that they were.
Receiving trust to be engaged in a trusting relationship requires that the one projecting trust has exhibited behavior worthy of trust. We must not be in the position of accepting trust in a blind fashion. Their behavior must have modeled the words and deeds that signal such trust. Their words and, even more powerfully, their deeds must backup our soon-to-be receiving of their projected trust. An oft-used expression in medicine is appropriate here – “Folks don’t care what you know as much as they want to know how much you care.” For patients to receive the care by a trusted physician, they really want the physician to exhibit care often more than the rote knowledge that a physician can recite in the context of a doctor-patient relationship. This same paradigm holds for us to receive/accept the trust of others.
We can be in a position to truly receive trust if the other party has demonstrated that they care about the consequences/results to come from ongoing relationships. To continue the medical example here, diseases like cancer or heart disease, more often than not, do not have a readily predictable course. Patients, in my experience, are likely to accept these various deviations (receiving trust) when the medical provider actively demonstrates their care through the hills and valleys of medical problems. Even untoward outcomes are often accepted when the provider exhibits the caring behavior that demonstrates a willingness to share in these circumstances and to be there through good times and bad times. Bad times can be diminished by a medical provider ready to promote trust and let the patient and their family or their close support persons be ready to receive it.
The medical analogy is handy but only to serve as an example. A trusting relationship that is in equilibrium (projected and received) should exist on so many levels – pastoral, parental, spousal, familial, colleague, business, educational, and many more. Even our consumption of media should be built on trust that endorses verifiable truth. We must realize that the evolution of our trusting relationships will need our constant surveillance and need to be continually nurtured. Truth, knowledge, humanity, empathy, dependability, confidence, and vulnerability can guide us and keep us on the path to mutual trust.