The Importance of Trust

Trust is important because in any organization or family system with more than one person, from time to time there is going to be a gap between what is expected and what actually happens, between what is promised and what is fulfilled.

There is no way to avoid the gaps. It is what we choose to place in the gap that matters, and if we are willing to be intentional about placing trust in the gap, over time we create a relationship characterized by trust.

For example, I have lunch scheduled with my friend at 12:15 and she shows up at 12:45. I see her walk in, now there is a gap.  She is late, and now I have to put something in that gap.  I can trust that there was something going on because I know her and she must have a good reason (she was held up on the phone with a client, her dog just died, her child had an emergency at school) or I can place suspicion in that gap (she doesn’t value me, she is irresponsible, she doesn’t care about my time, etc.)

Every day there are gaps, but we all choose what to place in those gaps. To create a relationship characterized by trust we need to choose to place trust in that gap.

Can we be intentional to place trust in that gap? The issue is way bigger than one specific incident. Is this a family or relationship where we give people the benefit of the doubt and believe the best, or is this a place where we believe the worst? Do we tell our friends and family that we believe in them, or that we don’t believe in them?

It is human nature to place suspicion in the gap.  There is a concept in psychology called the “fundamental attribution error.” This is:

“The tendency to attribute the negative or frustrating behaviors of our colleagues to their intentions or personalities…”

When someone else creates a gap, we tend to attribute it to her character (she is lazy, she is disorganized, she doesn’t care about me)

“…..but we attribute our own negative or frustrating behaviors to environmental factors.”

(My kids were sick, I am getting an unfair load placed on me, I have stress at home.)

We need to decide to give other people the same benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves.  We need to cut other people the same slack that we do ourselves.

Sometimes loved ones create gaps. So, let’s be intentional about placing trust in the gaps that our loved ones create. What do we have to lose?

Some people naturally fill gaps with trust and some are naturally more suspicious.

Where do you fall?

When we come to relationships, we bring our whole self, and all the conflicts from work and other past experiences, and things that we have been taught in the past. Similarly, we get responses from others based on a lot of other things going on in their lives and the experiences they have had before. Some people have been betrayed or let down and are more likely to fill gaps with suspicion.  Some people are waiting to be betrayed and will look for any sign that that might be happening, then jump on it as proof that people are really not trustworthy.  So if I am someone who tends to fill gaps with suspicion, I need to look at my own reasons for that and remind myself that these people in this family (or these friends or colleagues) are likely not the ones that deserve that response, that the past is the past.  So we all need to examine ourselves first.

There is no win or benefit when we fill the gap with suspicion, but there is a huge win when we place trust in the gap even when we are proved to be wrong. How do you feel when a gap that you created is filled with suspicion when you didn’t deserve it? How does that make you feel about your partner or friend? And how does that affect your ability to function in that relationship?

Now taking it one step further, when I hear someone else pointing to a gap that you created, I will come to your defense. Step up and say, “I bet she has a good reason for that.”  I don’t listen to gossip; don’t assume the worst about anyone in my family and assume the best until proven otherwise. I have twin 15-year old’s and find myself doing this a lot when they accuse each other of various things. For sure, it drives them crazy, because 15-year old’s love to gossip, and that’s normal when you are 15. But I hope to teach them another way. The way to stop gossip is to not be an ear for it but to step up and defend anyone who is the subject of gossip.  Someone else publically pointing out a gap that someone else created is gossip, and it eats away at the culture of trust that we are creating in our family systems.

Obviously, at some point the trust runs out, if I create the same gap over and over, something has to change.

If there is a gap that occurs without explanation, we need to talk to each other and I will always assume that I don’t have all the information.  Try to approach this situation with  “I am struggling, I want to believe the best, help me to understand what is going on.” I am going to assume that there is information that I don’t have, and I am coming in trying to get more information. Come in with trust, asking for information, don’t come in with a lack of trust, asking to prove why you should give it back.  Here is your opportunity to fill that gap.  But the assumption is that I trust you, even when there is a gap.

We have to not only give the gift of trust but give the gift of trustworthiness.

If I am going to assume the best about you then you need to do your best, you need to be worthy of my trust, or trustworthiness.

A trustworthy person is not someone who never creates a gap; it is someone who owns the gaps once they have created it. Ideally, you should own the gap before even knows there is a gap. Do everything in your power to prevent others from having to fill that gap. If you are late, tell someone ahead of time. If you did not meet expectations, tell your loved ones ahead of time.  It is much better to fill the gap yourself rather than risk letting someone else fill it with suspicion.

A trustworthy person is not someone who never creates a gap, but it IS someone who never intentionally creates a gap and hopes to get away with it.  If there is no good explanation, then step up and apologize. It is much better to admit your mistake and apologize than be found to be dishonest. Once you have shown that you are not trustworthy it is very hard to earn it back.

If you are experiencing a culture of suspicion in your family or work systems, then you are in part creating it. Each one of us creates the culture that we have by the choices that we make. What are we individually doing to create a culture of trust in our relationships? It is an intentional decision that we make to fill those gaps with trust instead of suspicion.

I would love to hear some examples of how this message was relevant to you and the experiences you had where you put this into action!

(Inspired by a talk by Andy Stanly)