Trust is developed over time by observing a person’s behavior. A good indicator of trustworthiness is a person’s ability to resist immediate impulses. Take note of the following:
• Does she have impulse control?
• Is he able to resist short-term gratification in order to pursue long-term fulfillment?
• Does she flake out on promises because something more fun, lucrative, or interesting popped up?
• Did he fail to follow through because he just didn’t feel like it?
Generally, people who can control their immediate impulses in one area can control them in most other areas, an exception being for vastly different spheres of enticement. For example, some people care much more about their own physical sensations than the feelings of other people, or vice versa. So someone who might never succumb to an extramarital affair might give in to her weakness for indulging in chocolate, and vice versa.
Being trustworthy in a relationship means that we keep the trust of others sacred, knowing they are vulnerable if we betray them.
So rather than asking someone “Can I trust you?”, take note of their behavior. If you see that someone is impulsive, has cheated before, or tends to be dishonest in order to gratify their immediate desires, then it’s very likely that that person won’t be able to resist a similar set of temptations in the future.
Distrust should prevent you from counting on someone to behave differently from their past. Distrust should not lead you to live in a state of suspicious and fearful wishful thinking. So if someone’s behavior doesn’t lead you to trust them, avoid getting into a relationship with them where you need to trust them. Otherwise, you’ll live in a constant state of naïveté and disappointment, or fear and anger.
Unfortunately, sometimes people who are trustworthy can deviate from their norm. There are no guarantees in life. We have to be ready to handle whatever comes our way as best we can.
Yet, if someone’s past conduct indicates trustworthiness, don’t waste time living in a state of suspicion and fear. Give them your trust, while remaining aware. If someone has been trustworthy, enjoy the fact that you can trust him or her.
I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
by Alison Poulsen, PhD