Trust: Important in all relationships

Trust affects many aspects of our lives.

Every day we have to trust. We have to trust that cars will stop at red lights or stop signs, trust that people we have personal and work relationships with will do what they say they will do, and trust that the food we are eating is safe. It is an integral part of how we function in our daily life. But, trust can be tricky.

We tend to trust those that have demonstrated to us that they are reliable, honest and loyal, but we don’t always have the opportunity to know a person well enough to come to this conclusion. We often have to decide whether or not we can trust another person on a moment’s notice. In these situations we tend to go by our intuition or “gut response.” Typically these intuitions or “gut feelings” are pretty accurate, but they can also be manipulated.

Studies have found that if an individual’s feelings of gratitude are improved, it will increase their level of trust and cooperation with people they have never met. Another example is if someone is in a stressful situation, this will also increase their trust and cooperation by almost 50 percent. It is extremely important to be aware of understanding these different influences when managing trust.

What might be some careful ways to build trust? Evaluate your risk of trusting. The higher the risk the more difficult it is to trust. You need to ask yourself what is holding you back from trusting the person or situation. Understand the principles of trust. The principles of trust are:

  1. Competency: Do they have the skills and integrity that make you feel comfortable?
  2. How is that person’s agenda focused? Are they focused on their own agenda or are they also working towards the good for all those involved?
  3. Try to assume that the other person has positive intentions. Otherwise a decline of distrust will begin without the benefit of fully understanding the situation.

You need to give trust to gain trust, and trust will be confirmed through actions. This leads to the fourth and final principle of trust – actions speak louder than words. Follow through on what you say you will do. Be honest and dependable. Trustworthiness is only gained when others believe us worthy enough for their trust.

Michigan State University Extension offers classes on healthy relationships, stress management and anger management. For programs near you go to

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