Strategies to Build and Repair Trust
Trust is essential for intimate relationships, but it doesn’t function alone. It is reciprocal. For trust to grow and thrive, all parties have to work at it. Conflicts often occur over trust-related issues or a belief that someone acted in a way that betrayed a person’s trust.
On a cancer journey, a patient might wonder if a particular person will be around when they are sick and need help. Can the person be relied upon to pick up their prescription from the pharmacy? Can he or she be trusted to be sensitive to the patient’s feelings? Will he or she consider and respect the patient’s needs and desires when discussing treatment options?
From a caregiver’s perspective, a caregiver may ask if the cancer patient will trust him or her to look out for their needs. Will the patient be honest and straightforward about how they are feeling? Will the patient be supportive or empathetic when the caregiver feels overwhelmed or needs a break?
Trust is usually built over time and through small actions that add up to a collective whole. Being dependable, honest, empathic, and having integrity are essential ingredients for trust to exist in a relationship. Self-sacrifice is also seen as a demonstration of commitment and trustworthiness.
If you want to establish a more trusting relationship with someone consider the following strategies:
- Follow through with commitments and keep promises. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
- Communicate openly and be willing to confide information that makes you vulnerable. Sometimes individuals do not share information because they want to protect their family members. The other person may see this as not being trusted or respected enough to be included in the discussion. It can cause conflict and hurt feelings.
- Don’t place blame or judge when others confide in you. A quick way to shut down a conversation is to be dismissive or disrespectful.
- Keep a person’s information confidential. Don’t share anything on social media without their permission.
- Show people you care about them. This can be done through small actions. Maybe a loved one seems sad, but you’d rather watch TV. Turning off the TV and asking them to talk shows you care about them and are concerned about how they are feeling.
- Apologize and acknowledge mistakes.
Conflict can occur when trust is violated. In most relationships, there are expectations that people will behave in a particular way. A patient, for example, may expect their spouse to be at every doctor’s visit. If the spouse frequently misses appointments, it may be seen as a betrayal of trust. A caregiver might expect a friend to listen to their frustrations. If the friend appears dismissive, it might hurt the relationship because the caregiver has entrusted their feelings to their friend.
If trust is damaged in a relationship, experts recommend taking the following steps to repair it:
- Identify the issue, what caused it and acknowledge any violations of trust.
- Accept responsibility.
- Come up with a strategy to deal with it, make reparations.
Who is Trustworthy?
Sometimes the problem is not the individual’s willingness to talk, but their tendency to trust the wrong person with sensitive information. Knowing who to trust is not easy. Think of someone you would like to confide in and ask the following questions about that person:
- How has this person shown that they care about your welfare?
- Is this person dependable even during difficult times?
- Can you rely on this person to respond in a loving way and not dismissively or with disrespect when you share information about yourself, even details that make you feel ashamed or weak?
- Does this person keep promises?
- Does this person consistently make excuses?
- Would you describe this person as honest, sincere and loyal?
Now, how trustworthy are you? Answer these same questions about yourself:
- How do you show others that you care about their welfare?
- Can you be depended on even during difficult times?
- Can you respond in a loving way and not dismissively or with disrespect to others when they share information about themselves with you?
- Do you keep promises that you make to others?
- Do you often or consistently make excuses?
- Would you describe yourself as honest, sincere and loyal?
This research project was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA144235; Dr. Wayne Beach, San Diego State University, Principal Investigator). Co-investigators included Dr. David Dozier from San Diego State University, and Mary Buller, Dr. Valerie Myers, and Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel, Inc.