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How Trust Gets You in Trouble: 6 Alternatives You Can Use Instead

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

“I don’t trust you…” It’s the sentence we all dread. How can someone not trust me? I’m a good person. Trust is one of those incredibly loaded words. What trust means to one person may mean something else to someone else. We don’t need a universal definition of trust. Instead, we need to stop using that word as a replacement for identifying and precisely defining a problem.

Take a moment to think about the person you trust most. Now, think of someone you don’t trust. How does that person show up differently in your life? Identify the one to three differences that reinforce why one person is highly trusted while the other is not.

In my experience and consideration of how people demonstrate trust and trustworthiness, I have identified six different factors that either reinforce or undermine trust:

  1. Credible: Does this person lack experience or judgment to know what he or she is talking about?
  2. Caring: Is this person self-serving, has bad intent and does not care about the impact of his or her actions on others and the company?
  3. Following through: Does this person not follow through on action items?
  4. Consistent: Is this person not consistently sticking to what he or she said?
  5. Transparent: Do you not trust this person because he or she is not direct and free flowing with information?
  6. Open and flexible: In the face of facts, does this person refuse to change his or her mind and is not open to doing things differently?

The majority of people are well intentioned. When you use the words “lack of trust” or “I don’t trust you,” it’s usually taken to mean that you are comparing a person to a criminal or a truly bad person. In reality, you probably mean something else, such as this person is holding his or her cards too close to the vest and not being as transparent about how he or she feels or that you are seeing a lack of consistency between what this person is saying to you versus what he or she is saying to your colleague.

Telling someone that he or she is not trusted can hit that person in the core. So the next time you are tempted to share that you do not trust someone, focus instead on the behavior, not the personality. Be precise in what you experience and observe in the other person by identifying the behaviors and how they impact you. Take the emotion and judgment from the conversation and make it easier for the other person to correct a few behaviors instead thinking he or she has to change his or her entire personality.

As good corporate citizens, spouses/partners or parents, it’s our jobs to be more precise and careful with our language and words. Now you have six alternatives to the word trust.

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