Lost Trust In Others?


Many people I meet with trust issues, at one time were extremely trusting in others, however someone took their trust and abused it. Others shared their secrets, failed to respect their confidential and shared information; eventually hurting the person in such a profound way that they’ve never really fully trusted again. So here they are, not only distrusting others, but no longer trusting in their own ability to assess whom to trust.

Being taken advantage of, now the person doubts their judgement in trusting anyone, which lowers their self-esteem – and all in acts of self-protection. Consequently, they never fully trust those around them, doubt themselves and miss out on a lot of good things in life.

Wow! That’s some pretty significant negative consequences, all stemming from being a trustworthy person in the first place (a great personal quality). Can you imagine how a person must feel who goes through this world, never trusting anyone completely; always expecting they’ll be let down and taken advantage of again? Believing the best way to safeguard your personal thoughts, deepest feelings and the things you struggle with is to keep them all to yourself. Is that healthy? Not really.

No, keeping everything to yourself and never trusting others for fear of being exposed and taken advantage of can severely limit great experiences, rich relationships and it’s these that can work wonders on your own self-image. I’m not saying we should all be sharing absolutely everything with all the people around us. No, personal, private thoughts, feelings and problems are often kept exactly that way – internalized and private. Sometimes we can work through our issues entirely within ourselves.

However, there are many times in our lives when an empathetic or even sympathetic ear could be helpful. Someone to hear us out, a kind of sounding board for the things we’re thinking about, struggling to deal with, being weighed down by. When we share the big things with someone, our burden is often lighter, even when they just listen. Of course if we want advice, possible options for dealing with whatever is weighing on us, a trusted opinion from someone who has our best interests at heart can be wonderful.

This kind of person usually isn’t found in the workplace but rather in our personal lives. It’s a close friend perhaps, someone you confide in who takes what you say, doesn’t get alarmed and tell you what to think or what not to think, but simply hears you out and shares what’s important to you just by being there. Workmates we trust in typically hear us talk about working conditions, things specifically related to our jobs like the boss, co-worker relationships, workloads and job satisfaction. Sometimes we might even confide in someone about our plans to look elsewhere for a job without letting the boss know.

If you’ve ever told a co-worker something in confidence and found they’ve gone and made your secrets known to others, you would likely lower your trust in that person, or perhaps rule them out completely with anything significant in the future.

Sometimes of course, the person who breaks your trust does so with your own best interests at heart. They might be conflicted if for example you shared something that would cause financial loss to the employer, or if you were in danger of hurting yourself or another person. Their moral dilemma between keeping your trust versus the safety of others or employer loyalty might cause them great distress.

Some are just naturally better at earning, keeping and returning trust than others. It’s a skill after all; not something we are equally good at. When someone breaks trust, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are inherently bad, or will break trust in the future, but it makes it hard to extend trust a second time.

Now, the sad thing about people who have had their trust misplaced in the past, is that they exist in the present wary of trusting now. Without someone to confide in, they are left to work out their problems and issues all on their own. When trustworthy people do come into contact with the person, the person may miss opportunities that could help them move forward with less stress and much quicker. That fear of perhaps misjudging someone again and having their trust misplaced is greater than the perceived benefit of trusting, so they don’t.

I suppose the greater the fallout from misplaced trust in the past, the more a person withholds their trust in the present; insisting to themselves that they get to know someone over a long time and gauge how they handle small bits of information before ever contemplating sharing deeper issues. Having one’s trust broken is like having an internal scar that only you can see and it can run deep, flaring up when you’re thinking of trusting again – just as a reminder.

When someone does trust you with their feelings and struggles, it’s a wonderful gift. It’s a measure of the value they place in you; both for hearing them out and for what you’ll do with what you hear. You show respect for what you hear and more importantly for the person themselves when you hold that trust firm.

Trusting in others is a good quality to have. My hope is that if you’ve lost the ability to trust, you eventually rediscover the tremendous benefits of confiding in someone, and that your trust in them is rewarded.

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What You Silently Deal With


If you’re in any one the helping professions you probably have advised those you support to be open with you and share whatever issue(s) they are dealing with. It only makes sense you figure; after all, know what they are dealing with and you can best respond to their needs. Why then I wonder, if this such wise advice, do you and I not then reveal to others that which we are silently dealing with?

All kinds of things come to mind; embarrassment, shame, pride, fear of isolation, rejection,  bullying, teasing etc.; take your pick. Of course what you’re dealing with and the environment you are in and the people you might share your personal issues with largely determines how you may or may not proceed.

If you’re dealing with depression for example, you might find yourself going out of your way to be perceived as, ‘up’, friendly, funny and nice to be around. Could be that your circle of friends or co-workers would be surprised to find out you’re depressed and taking medication to stay on the even keel. They mind say, “What you? Depressed? No way. Really? Wow, I’d never have guessed.” While that might be nice, it doesn’t really help you other than to know you’re masking things well and fooling those around you. Is fooling others though what you really want to do?

What if it’s not depression though? You might instead have a criminal record you’re doing your best to keep from being made public. Depending on what it’s all about, you might even worry that it would cost you your current job if it came out publicly. You’re carrying that load and walking around each day hoping it doesn’t catch up with you.

These are the kind of things that affect us in two ways; in and of themselves they impact us and secondly we stress about the impact disclosure would bring upon us. Ironically, you might feel the very fact that it’s your personal secret makes talking about it with someone – anyone – impossible to do as you’ll fret over that person intentionally or accidentally revealing what you want kept private. But if you could tell someone, well, that alone would in another sense be a tremendous relief.

I bet we’d all be surprised and in some cases downright shocked if all the people we met as we go through our days wore visible labels; identifying their demons, secrets and health concerns. While it would be revealing to see what others are really dealing with on a day-to-day basis, how eager or comfortable would you be exposing your own label(s)?

I wonder if it would eventually get to be a non-factor in time if everyone publically advertised their issues? You know, you walk around and in the beginning you’re fascinated and appalled, shocked and surprised. However would we ever get to the point where we’d just say, “Oh yeah…” and think nothing of those labels because they become so commonplace? I imagine we’d rather everyone else publically display their issues and then eventually we might give it a go and reveal some but probably not all of our own issues.

Imagine as an exercise you sat in a group and everyone went up to a table and picked up a number of post-it notes, each with a problem, issue, disease, secret or mental health condition on it. Then these were affixed to the persons top so everyone could see. Imagine too that everyone was free to pick up something they don’t deal with or they could pick up exactly what they are dealing with at the same time; as no one would actually know if the issue was something they lived with or were just picking up for the exercise. Say for the next hour, people just milled around and talked, asked questions, told others how they think they’d feel but said it as if they actually had that ‘thing’ and pretended it was real.

How would you feel if you had a criminal record for real or dealt with depression and you were asked point-blank, “So why did you do it?” or “How do you cope with depression and what’s a bad day look like?” Would you tell the truth or make something up? Would it be a relief to say out loud how you feel knowing that the other person wouldn’t really know if you were being honest with them or taking your best guess as to what that would feel like?

What I’d also think we’d find interesting is to hear someone else wearing a label that we actually deal with talk about it in their words. Would they be accurate or far off the mark? Would it make us feel relieved to be having conversations about our issues in this manner? Would it help or hinder our ability to then have conversations with others when the exercise was over? Hmm….

Whatever you’re dealing with, it’s not like you’re the only one carrying that issue and living with it everyday. Sometimes we can find support and strength from sharing with others who then find the courage themselves to open up.

If you’re not ready to share your personal challenges, that’s okay. When the time comes you’ll recognize the opportunity before you and will have to decide to do so or not. Be it a friend, a best friend or a total stranger, I hope you do.