Your answer to this question may be in the form of another question…
“To do what?”
You would do well not to answer the question, “Do you trust me?” without understanding the focus of the question.
Trust is often misunderstood, and by relatively intelligent individuals. Onora O’Neill (philosopher) postures that saying we need more trust is a “stupid aim” and that we should not be focused on building more trust, but trusting those who are trustworthy, more and those who are untrustworthy, less. **
Would we even need to ask the question “Do you trust me?” if we simply proved we were trustworthy by our actions and our words?
One of the building blocks of a relationship is Trust. So often we expect others to trust us without proving we are trustworthy first. We expect others to give us their trust simply because we ask for it.
However, Trust is the result of trustworthiness.** How can you prove trustworthiness?
O’Neill believes trustworthiness will have three components present: competency, reliability, and honesty.**
I used to tell my daughters while they were growing up (still do actually) that lying is wrong because it has the power to destroy a relationship very quickly. Lying and being caught in a lie is like napalm – it can flare up and burn out a relationship charring it beyond repair. Honesty is a key part of trustworthiness.
Competency literally means you have shown skill and ability in a particular area. I trust my ophthalmologist to treat issues and illnesses of my eyes, but I would not trust him or her with treating the issues I have with my knees.
Reliability means you are dependable, devoted, faithful, truthful and loyal. There are those in your life that are competent at a certain skill, are honest in their words, but you may not trust them to keep an appointment because they are forgetful and therefore not reliable.
Trust is tricky. We try to generalize it, however, in reality it is complex and multi-faceted. There are different levels of trust. You wouldn’t trust a ten-year old to drive your car. You wouldn’t trust someone you just met to house-sit, unless you did a background check and had them sign a form stating they are 100% responsible for all of your belongings while you are away (of course, that’s not trust at all, is it?).
You wouldn’t trust your dog alone with your fried chicken dinner. You certainly wouldn’t trust your mechanic to fly a jetliner on your trip to another country.
When you give trust to someone in some particular area of expertise, it is usually because they have proven they are willing and able to fulfill a certain task, assignment or a need.
This speaks to competence.
Why would you go get a second opinion from another doctor? Why would you get a second opinion on your car for a particular repair? Why would you talk to another friend regarding a situation you are facing after you just asked advice from the first one?
This is a test of honesty.
When you give a time and a place for someone to meet you, and they don’t show up, you are more likely going to have difficulty trusting that same person when you give them another place and time to meet.
This refers to reliability.
When trying to build a relationship with someone – whether it is a work relationship, friendship, romantic relationship or a family relationship – in order to develop trust between you and someone else, you need to prove you are trustworthy before you can be trusted. You would not expect anything less from someone else in order to for you to trust him or her.
Perhaps trust is so difficult to give and trustworthiness difficult to determine because there are many counterfeits vying for our attention, our money, our time and talents. To what end are the objects of our trust trying to obtain? Does the person or group we are placing our trust have our best interests at heart? For that matter, do we have the best interests of others in the forefront of our minds?
There are tens of thousands of attorneys in this country. There are lawsuits literally filling up dockets all across the nation. Why are we such a litigious society? Could it be that we have given up on proving trustworthiness because it is so difficult to prove?
I used to give trust more readily than I do now. Skepticism is the result of broken trust throughout the years. I look more toward a person’s trustworthiness before I give trust. Unfortunately, it is possible to sway more toward the skeptical side of thinking when you get burned too many times.
When building relationships with others – I am now trying to focus more on proving my own trustworthiness before expecting others to trust me. It doesn’t mean I automatically trust others. In the process of proving my own trustworthiness, I am surprised at how someone’s true colors become known and show whether they are trustworthy as well.
Trust depends on the other person giving it to you. Trustworthiness doesn’t depend on others; it depends on you and I. What would it look like if we lived in such a way with each other where we proved our own mettle before expecting to be given their trust? Would we even need so many levels of accountability (which are in place because of those who have proven untrustworthy)?
Also, when we take the perspective that we need to prove our trustworthiness before trust can be exchanged, we may even be accepted sooner than later. Just remember, proving trustworthiness takes time.
It is an extremely valuable part of relationships.
Just one final thought: referring back to the most recent posts on vulnerability – O’Neill also points out that if you show a level of vulnerability, it has a positive effect on your ability to prove trustworthy**.
**Onora O’Neill. (2013). What we don’t understand about trust. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PNX6M_dVsk