When a relationship is meaningful and fulfilling, people and those around them will naturally flourish. In any relationship, there are a few key ingredients that are needed to keep people growing stronger toward each other. One of those key ingredients for a strong, healthy, and successful relationship is trust.
In all sorts of relationships – between spouses, parents and their children, siblings, friends, roommates, business partners, sport teammates, co-workers, authorities and the communities they serve – trust is needed to make the relationship work.
When you trust someone, you’re able to rely on their judgment, act on their words without fear you’re being misled, feel supported, feel cared for, feel loved, and so much more. When that trust is lacking, trespassed, and/or has been violated, that crumbles the very foundation of that relationship.
You may no longer believe the words they say, may view their actions through a lens of suspicion, and you may no longer feel safe in the relationship. So, it’s important not only to build but to maintain trust in a relationship, if any relationship is to work. Once trust is damaged or lost in a relationship, it takes time, actions, changes, prayer, and patience to rebuild in a relationship.
5 Tips for How to Build Trust
Below are some pointers on how to build trust in a relationship. They will apply to new relationships where there isn’t a history yet and they may also apply equally to relationships that have a little mileage on them. In reality you don’t ever stop building trust in a relationship if you want that relationship to remain healthy, strong, and long lasting.
1. Be consistent and dependable
One great way to build trust in a relationship is by being consistent and dependable. When someone knows that they can count on you, for example that you will show up when you say you will or you will do the things you said you will do, these actions allow people to believe in you and take you at your word. They can rely on you and have confidence in you and your predicted behavior.
Consistency and reliability may look different in various relationships. Between a father and son, it may look like showing up for his games each week and being in his corner as his biggest supporter.
Between spouses, it may look like getting the groceries each week when you said you would, helping with the kids the days or times you said you would, and being faithful to your spouse. Between business partners, it may look like delivering office supplies as needed or when you said you would, completing work on schedule or keeping communication on progress/challenges, and turning in the product, quality, and quantity that you agreed on.
Being consistent doesn’t mean that you get things right all the time. For a variety of reasons, we at times fail to meet our commitments. However, trust is built if we meet our commitments often enough that the other person in the relationship comes to expect it, and failure to meet the commitment becomes an anomaly with a good reason behind it.
2. Be available
Another important way to build trust is to be available to the people with whom you’re in a relationship. Being available to others may mean showing up for them when you are needed, showing support, and creating space in your life for the other person.
Trust is about more than a set of behaviors that create certain expectations. Trust is also about an emotional connection formed with someone else, and that connection is formed and strengthened through having experiences that bind people together. Those experiences can’t happen if you aren’t available for people.
3. Be truthful
Part of building trust with others is to be the kind of person who speaks the truth in good times and bad times. When you make a habit of speaking the truth, the people in your relationship know you are not saying one thing to them while saying something else to another person. When relating to a truthteller, you know that what you see (and hear) is what you get.
When a person is consistently truthful, you can take them at their word and rely (there’s that word again) on them. You can act based on their words, you don’t have to guess what their position on an issue is, and you know that their words are an accurate reflection of their hearts and minds.
Sometimes being truthful isn’t easy, but being forthright is a key ingredient to a strong and healthy relationship. If your words can’t be trusted, there’s no foundation for the relationship because it could all be an illusion built on lies.
4. Be accountable
Healthy relationships are composed of give and take from both parties and function just like a partnership. A part of that give and take is that when you mess up, you are open to recognize it, acknowledge it, and be willing to own your mistakes/consequences. The fact is that all human being sin and do not always live up to our word or our highest expectations of ourselves.
As we pointed out before, being trustworthy does not mean being perfect, but it does mean building up a record that builds the confidence of others in you and your reliability. You and everyone else will mess up at one point or another in our lives; however, part of building trust is what happens next. Do you own up to what happened and why? Or do you shift blame, deny, and otherwise not take responsibility for what happened?
People who lie, obfuscate, gaslight, and otherwise refuse responsibility for their actions lose validity, respect, and many times may stop being trustworthy. If they don’t accept accountability for what they did, apologize for their mistakes, and seek to do better, that diminishes trust in relationships. The affected party then begins thinking that if the other person does not take responsibility for it this time, why would the same person do so the next time?
In relationships, we entrust ourselves, our lives, our emotions, our health, our finances (in some cases), and much more to others. Those things matter to us, and when someone doesn’t take responsibility for when they mess up, it’s that much harder to trust them the next time around.
5. Keep confidences
Being trustworthy and building trust is also about keeping confidences. In relationships, people share themselves with one another. Spouses share their fears and vulnerabilities. Friends share closely held hopes and dreams. Business partners may share plans for expansion or areas of struggle in their current operation.
Parents and children open their hearts to one another and share not only their triumphs but also areas of failure and weakness. When those intimate areas of a person are shared in a relationship, they aren’t always meant for public knowledge. Often they are told to you in confidence because of your unique connection with the person.
A good default rule is that if someone tells you something about themselves in a private conversation, it’s not meant to go beyond the two of you. Assume you’re the only person who knows and that it isn’t meant for public consumption unless otherwise indicated.
Imagine if you told a friend something about yourself that you’ve never told anyone else. Or imagine you have told other people, but it’s a small circle of people that know. Let’s say it’s a challenge with your health, like a struggle with depression or that you’re a survivor of sexual assault.
How would you feel if someone you haven’t told comes up to you and commiserates with you because your friend told them about your situation? It is natural in those circumstances to feel betrayed, to feel confused, and that trust has been broken. The relationship with the person you entrusted with your personal experience or thoughts will be on shaky ground.
In some occasions, some tough choices do come up in life! For example, if a friend is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or of harming others, for instance, outside help may be necessary. In those circumstances, keeping a confidence may be more harmful than helpful. Outside of those critical or emergency situations, a great way to build trust is to reliably keep confidences and not engage in gossip about the people with whom you are in relationship.
Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues
Relationships require trust for them to begin, grow, and be sustained through time. It takes time, availability, dependence, consistency, accountability, and truthfulness to build enough confidence for a trustworthy relationship to be established. Trust is a fragile entity that accidentally or intentionally can be shattered in a moment of indiscretion or weakness.
So, it is important to safeguard our relationships and be willing to take responsibility when we mess up. Regaining trustworthiness after a big mistake or damage is inflicted in a relationship is not easy. However, with God’s grace we could repair broken, distant, or damaged relationships through Christian counseling.
Being trustworthy is something that is rooted in our character. You may be able to fake qualities like consistency, accountability, and truthfulness for a little while, but over the long haul it won’t last, and the truth will speak for itself. Thus, being honest and truthful with yourself and others will help keep your relationships with others healthy, strong, and long lasting. We build trust by being trustworthy people.
Want to start practicing or getting back into being trustworthy? Start by trusting God’s perfect plan for you! Contact me or another Christian counselor today to start receiving the guidance and accountability needed to be trustworthy, because your relationships with God and others matter!
“Group Effort”, Courtesy of Kindel Media, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Trust Puzzle”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Heart Hands”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Handshake”, Courtesy of Sora Shimazaki, Pexels.com, CC0 License