Trust Is Granted, Not Earned
As I personally reflect on these questions, I'm reminded of both the importance and complexity of trust in life, work and relationships. Trust is one of the most critical elements of healthy relationships, families, teams, organizations and communities. However, you may have an odd or disempowered relationship to trust—you've been taught that people must earn your trust, when in fact, it's something you grant to others.
I learned early in life that it wasn't always safe to trust people—my folks split up when I was 3 years old. I went to tough schools and found myself in some difficult situations, and part of my "street-smart survival kit" was to be very suspicious of just about everyone I came into contact with. While this did have its benefits (to a certain degree) as a child and adolescent (at least in terms of survival), as I got older, I noticed my resistance to trusting others created some real issues in my life and my relationships.
No matter how many tests I put people through in order to have them earn my trust, at the end of that whole process, it was ultimately up to me to grant them my trust (or not), and then to continue to trust them (or not).
Why you should open up and trust
While this makes rational sense, it usually leaves you guarded, leery and insecure—unable to easily create meaningful and fulfilling relationships with people. The irony is that no matter how guarded you are, how thick the walls you put up or what you do to try to keep yourself from getting hurt and disappointed...it usually happens anyway.
One of my teachers said to me years ago, "Mike, you're living as though you're trying to survive life. You have to remember, no one ever has."
What if you granted your trust more easily? What if you were willing to make yourself vulnerable, to count on other people in a genuine and healthy way and to expect the best from others authentically? Michael Bernard Beckwith calls this being "consciously naïve," which may seem a little oxymoronic on the surface, but at a much deeper level is very wise and profound concept.
Will you get hurt? Yes! Will you be let down? Most certainly. Will people violate your trust? Of course. However, this will happen anyway—it's just part of life. Ironically, the more you are willing to grant your trust consciously, the more likely you are to create a true sense of connection, cooperation and collaboration in your life, relationships, families and teams—even if you feel scared to do so or it seems counterintuitive at times.
You'll almost always get what you expect in life. What if you start expecting people to be there for you, to do things that are trust-worthy and to have your back and your best interests in mind? As with just about everything else in life, it's a choice. As Albert Einstein so brilliantly stated, "The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe."
I choose friendly—how about you?
Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News and in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many other publications.
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