Well-Being//

The Paradox of Trust

Why We Fear Being Judged by Those Who Know Us Well


When was the last time you cried? Did you feel loved in the past week? Have you ever thought about suicide? Did you hide a big mistake from your boss recently?

All these questions are intimidating. Whatever you reply says a lot about you.

When conducting this exercise in one of our workshops, people don’t feel intimidated at all. They open up and share their secrets in front of a group of strangers.

But, when we ask participants if they would answer those questions to someone who knows them well, they panic.

People feel free to share their secrets with strangers. But are afraid of being judged by their friends, family or co-workers.

That’s the paradox of trust: we have a hard time being candid with those we trust.

Reframing Trust into Something Imperfect

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” — Nelson Mandela

Trust is powerful and complex, but also volatile.

We have developed an idealized version of trust.

It’s based on the premise those we trust will never disappoint us. And, when they do, we feel betrayed. Your trust is broken.

Trust: noun “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”

The problem with defining trust as a ‘belief’ is that we confuse it with blind faith.

Trust needs to be developed and nurtured over time. And, like love or friendship, it takes two to tango. Trust requires getting our hands dirty.

Today’s daily stretch: reframe trust as something dynamic, not perfect.

A. Trust is not symmetrical: To be trusted by someone is not the same thing as trusting someone. It’s a two-way relationship but don’t expect everyone to be as committed as you.

B. There’s no such a thing as risk-free trust: To be trusted you must take small, initial up-front risks. Don’t let the fear of being criticized, ignored or rejected stop you.

C. You cannot control what people do; you can control your reactions: If someone does you wrong, don’t wrong them back. They are accountable for their mistakes. You are responsible for your emotions.

“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.” — Eckhart Tolle

Here are seven ways to reframe trust.

1. Take the first step

“The first step towards greatness is taking the first step.” — Michael Wright

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. But you can’t begin to know someone without first trusting them.

Leaders don’t wait for others to make the first move. Leaders encourage people into action with their own behaviors. Take the first step.

Trust people even if you don’t know them.

2. Stop holding others to your own high standards

“You just have to trust your own madness.” — Clive Barker

We set a high standard for ourselves. We suffer from the perfectionist syndrome. That’s because we have a hard time dealing with failure. Or with our own flaws.

And when someone doesn’t behave within our standards, we feel betrayed. Not just because they hurt us. But because their imperfections remind us of our own.

Get rid of your high standards. It’s easier to be more compassionate to others when we are compassionate to ourselves.

3. Suffering is part of life

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” — Khalil Gibran

People will disappoint you. Many times. Especially those who matter the most.

But that shouldn’t make you feel disappointed. Instead of reacting to what causes you suffering, reflect on it and learn.

What can you improve? How can you avoid making those mistakes yourself?

Turn disappointments into lessons. I learned to love being rejected.

4. Don’t let others expectations define you

“Often expectation fails.” — William Shakespeare

We worry about trust, but allow other people’s expectations get in the way of being who we want to be.

During the workshop I mentioned previously, we conducted a guided meditation to help participants reconnect with critical moments of their lives. And realized what drives the fear of being criticized by those who know them well.

Throughout life, our parents, teachers, bosses, friends — even those who bullied us— have tried to define who we are. Or should be.

Other people’s expectations derail us. By trying to fulfill those, we lose clarity and focus.

You never know how people will react to the real you. But it’s better to be rejected than hiding your true self.

5. Trust yourself, and the rest will take care of

“Trust yourself; you know more than you think you do.” — Benjamin Spock

In the end, it’s all about you.

Follow your instincts. When you feel confident about your identity, everything feels natural. You take full responsibility for your life’s choices and behaviors, rather than caring about what other people might think.

The less you care about being judged, the less you will be. Gossipers and critics enjoy seeing their victims suffer.

When you become immune to their attacks, they’ll look for easier targets.

6. Trust is fluid, not rigid

“The tree that bends doesn’t break.” — Japanese Proverb

When we project a sense of trust in others, we expect them to live up to our expectations. When they don’t do so — which is more often than not — we feel betrayed.

If we apply a black or white approach, when someone makes a mistake our trust vanishes.

Trust can be bent, it can be broken and most of all it can be rebuilt.

Leave room for understanding, forgiveness, and learning.

7. Only you can rebuild trust

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” — Thomas Szasz

Coaching teams, they ask me this question very often: “can trust be rebuilt? Or, once it’s lost, is it gone for ever?”

If you Google ‘Trust’ quotes, most are filled with anger. As I mentioned before, a black or white approach. I personally advise you not to fall in the resentment trap.

I lost trust in people and many lost trust in me. Most of those relationships never recovered. But, luckily, many were.

Trust can be gone. But it shouldn’t always be lost forever.

Yes, trust can be rebuilt but, most importantly, it becomes stronger than it ever was.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” — Lewis Smedes

Rebuilding trust depends on you. Go back to point number one: Take the first step.

Before You Leave

If you too are interested in building a culture where talent and people can thrive, let’s keep the conversation going. Reach out to [email protected] or read my book “Stretch for Change.”

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Originally published at betterhumans.coach.me

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