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.