• Susan Otim-Neal

3 Types of Trust We Practice In Relationship

“Authentic trust…embraces the possibilities of distrust and betrayal as an essential part of trust.” – R. Solomon & F. Flores, Building Trust

Like many people, I grew up believing that trust must be earned when in fact trust is something we give others. It’s simply what I learned. What about you? Did you learn that trust is granted or that it must be worked for and earned? How we experience and express trust as adults was shaped by a combination of how skillfully our parents or primary caregivers used and modeled emotions in their interactions with us as infants, by our own unique nature, and by our life experiences growing up. And in order for me to make a shift for the better in who I was being as a leader, wife, and human being, I had to first notice, then acknowledge that I was operating from an automatic, rigid belief system which dictated that trust must be earned. I had to unravel my stance of distrust and learn that granting trust to others is not only an ethically and morally right choice to make, it’s the right way to build and maintain healthy relationships.

When we approach our partner, our children, our team, or people from different backgrounds from a stance of distrust, or from an attitude conveying to people that they will have to work hard to earn our trust as we embark on a new venture or project together, our relationships suffer damage. People rise (or fall) to our expectations, and that includes trust. Through personal, intentional practice I have discovered that more often than not, people will prove worthy of our trust if we first grant it. We are capable of developing the strength and coping skills necessary for overcoming the inevitable disappointments or betrayals that come with being in relationship. Building trust begins with understanding how you consciously or unconsciously approach and practice trust in your relationships. Below are three types of trust people tend to practice. What category resonates most with how you express trust?  

  1. Simple Trust – untroubled, unthinking, taken for granted. Fragile. Like the trust young children have for their parents. When such trust is betrayed, it cannot be restored. This is the way many of us have learned to think of or approach trust, as something fragile that cannot be restored once it has been “broken.”

  2. Blind Trust – the Refusal to even consider any evidence or argument that one should not be so trusting, or that one should qualify one’s trust. This type of unconditional trust often betrays gullibility or one’s lack of self-conception or resolute values. The sort of trust demanded by cult leaders, some corporate bosses and some political leaders.

  3. Authentic Trust – conditional, focused, qualified, and limited, authentic trust does not necessitate the exclusion of distrust. To the contrary, it embraces the possibilities of distrust and betrayal as an essential part of trust. It is a stance of committed openness rather than a mere lack of discrimination. To trust someone is not to say anything goes, but rather to keep open one’s responses, expectations, and willingness to negotiate.

How could you begin shifting the way you think about and practice trust?

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