Day 20: build trusting relationships
Welcome to Day 20 of Confidence Boot Camp! This month is flying by and we are in our last week. We hope you are learning valuable tips and real life practices to support your confidence-building.
Today, we are asking a vitally important question to consider to strengthen confidence: How do we build trusting relationships?
The topic of trust is one of the most researched topics on the internet. Why is that? It may have something to do with our own experience of betrayal by someone we trusted. Whether the betrayal came from your most intimate relationship or a professional or casual relationship, trust is integral to building any successful relationship.
We all know this, and most of us agree with this. We also might intuitively understand that there is an unspoken agreement between ourselves and the people we trust, whether they are spouses, friends, doctors, therapists, or coworkers. The agreement is that they will protect our trust and treat us honestly and with respect. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
The reality is that all of us will undoubtedly feel betrayed by someone, or many people, at some point in our lives. Conversely, it is important to accept that we also will betray other people, whether intentionally or not. Understandably, we want to avoid the emotional wounds that result from betrayal. However, it is unrealistic to believe we can create a life where we will never experience betrayal. If we expect others--or ourselves--to never commit an act of betrayal, we may be setting ourselves up to be unwilling to take risks and engage in deep and meaningful relationships.
For example, we all know someone who has felt betrayed by their significant other that may have led to a breakup, estrangement or divorce. It's not unusual to hear that person then declare out of hurt, “I will never trust (insert type of person, i.e., men, women, attorneys, siblings, etc.) again. Well, that sounds like a lonely and isolating life.
Here are some words of advice to think about:
1. Get to know the other person as much as possible before deciding the level ofcommitment you are willing to give to him or her.
This includes sharing with each other your values, beliefs, lifestyle preferences, dreams, and emotional needs. Sharing these important parts of ourselves requires vulnerability and, as such, it also takes time for us to be willing to show those vulnerabilities.
So what about first impressions? Can we trust them?
Research conducted by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov suggests that “all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions (although they might boost your confidence in your judgments).
To be honest, I’m a little taken aback by this finding. Does this mean that we can always trust our first impressions? I would venture to say no. I would encourage you to be aware that we do it, and wary of trusting it 100% of the time, for the reason that we might unconsciously make decisions based on those first impressions that may or may not be in our own best interest. So be aware of that tendency, and use it wisely. Allow yourself the time you need to get to know that person.
For example, if your first impression of your latest Bumble coffee date is, “That guy is great! I’m going to marry him,” you might want to take a deep breath... and slow down. When interviewing for a job, do your homework beforehand. Social media provides us with an opportunity to to research out the company and the person who will be interviewing you. Ask questions in the interview. Pay attention to body language. We are all intuitive beings. Trust your instincts, but also keep in mind that you have unconscious biases. With time, you will come to know if your first impressions were correct. Or not.
2. Know your Bottom-Line Positions
Bottom-LIne Positions (BLP) are not ultimatums or conditions. They are emotional and relational measures that we use to evaluate our decisions in regard to this person, this job, this vacation, or...you get the point. Some examples are: Am I willing to be with someone who won’t introduce me to his friends? Am I willing to take a job for this salary because I believe this person will look out for me? How much am I willing to spend on this vacation, and do I trust that those who are going with me will pay their fair share?
Defining your BLPs takes time. Sometimes you realize that what you thought was a BLP was actually not. You decide you can accept your partner’s junk food habit. You decide to take the job with the lower salary because you believe you can trust their promises of your bright future (but also accepting that your understanding of “bright future” may be different than what he or she meant). Again, we humans are usually quite flexible with most things. But there are always a few things where we are not.
3. Start with trust and assume good intentions. Once you have decided to invest in the relationship, trust that you and that person may really be compatible and on the same page. I tell my clients to trust the person you’ve decided to let into your life until they do something that violates your trust. Even then, since we all can unintentionally violate someone’s trust, continue to trust them if they are willing to accept responsibility and repair the trust violation.
In terms of our differences, sometimes you can learn to accept and accommodate that big difference, and sometimes you can't. We human beings are built to be flexible. But we usually have one or two Bottom Line Positions. It might be in the area of lifestyle (e.g. I want a monogamous relationship, he wants an open relationship), religious beliefs, substance use, work ethic, family choices, money management, etc. With professional relationships, if you find yourself in personality clashes or having ethical differences that you just cannot accommodate no matter how hard you try, you may not be able to continue. Regardless, it is vital to know what your BLPs are.
4. Take responsibility if you do violate someone’s trust. Repair it with ownership, apologies and behavior change, remembering that it is your job to make yourself a safe person for them. If someone has violated your trust, be open to continuing the relationship if they take these same steps for repair. It most likely will change the relationship, even if it is a fractional change, and that is okay. Relationships are fluid and humans are resilient. A silver lining is that trust violations can increase our own self- awareness that we, and others, have the capacity to hurt someone else, which is also an opportunity for personal growth, such as in learning to forgive and compromise.
Finally, it is also important to know that some breaches of trust may not be resolvable. Those breaches differ from person to person, and it's not up to us to determine what is right for someone else. What might be irreparable for one person isn’t to another, and that, too, is acceptable. Every person has the right and responsibility to know themselves and their limits.
1. Think about a relationship you currently have or have had in the past where you feel like you were betrayed in some manner. How did you handle it?
2. Using the tools discussed here, think about what you would do differently next time. Which of these tools might help you see the situation differently or respond differently if you decided you wanted to make a change?
That’s it for today. Thanks for joining us for this episode of Confidence Boot Camp. See you tomorrow!
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