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How Do You Know You Can Trust Someone? (Effective Tools For Measuring Trustworthiness)

Written by: Yingli Wang, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


In my last article, “Who destroyed your trust?”, I talked about what trust is, the connection between distrust and childhood experiences, three significant effects of lacking/losing trust, and the importance of self-trust. In this article, I will give you more tools for dealing with trust problems, including the seven elements for measuring trust that will help you identity the trustworthy and untrustworthy. In the end, I invite you to look at trust from a different perspective, viewing it in a broader light, so that you are not limited by your own inherent beliefs about trust.

Unhappy couple arguing inside their house.

Trust is more important than love

British writer George MacDonald once said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” Sure, we all want to be loved, but to be known as someone who is trustworthy and reliable may be more important than being loved.

In my work as a counsellor, I realized that not even I also could eliminate the deeply ingrained basic human need of wanting my clients to like me, even though I understand that my clients’ liking of me may involve many factors (for example, idealisation as part of psychological projections). What my clients like or love about me does not always fully reflect my true qualities and nature. But whenever my client tells me that she feels safe during the counselling process and that she can trust me and our relationship, I experience a deep emotion that is moving and fulfilling while also meeting a therapist’s responsibilities. I also believe that this represents the possibility of my client’s healing going to the next level, although this is not always the case in her relationship with me, as trust is not set in stone. Trust is dynamic, as I will discuss further at the end of this article.

Trust is important for two reasons:

1. We need to feel physically and emotionally safe in our interpersonal relationship because then we will be able to express and share our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideas, and opinions explicitly and clearly. Trust makes honest communication possible, and the ability to communicate determines the health of a relationship.

2. We count on others to survive, complete tasks, and achieve our goals. The higher the degree of trust shared by people in a group situation, the stronger the group’s ability to cooperate and the better the performance will be. By trusting each other, we can share resources, help each other out, and accomplish our mutual goals.

Two devastating consequences of betrayal

No one is born distrustful. As I mentioned in my last article, distrust is mostly related to our experiences, especially in childhood. I believe that most people have experienced betrayal one way or another in their lifetime. Being betrayed has two devastating consequences:

1. Suspicion of others and the world

When you trust someone, you make assumptions about them and how they would act, and these assumptions make you feel safe, certain, and even confident about the present and future. After your trust has been betrayed, any semblance of safety and certainty can collapse into pieces.

When someone betrays you, you doubt not only the moment of the betrayal but also the past. You doubt the person they were before; if you do not know who they are now, how sure can you be of who they were? All of your beliefs about the other person and your relationship with them will be shattered and need re-examination.

This fragmentation and disorientation can affect the way you see others and the world, which is, of course, perfectly normal.

2. Brewing in self-doubt

When betrayal occurs, it adds a filter [MOU1] to the way you see others and the world, as well as creating deep self-doubt because you actually do not know the person you thought you knew. What you thought you were going through with the other person might not reflect reality, and you may still not know the reality.

You might start to doubt everything, including yourself. You might feel that you do not understand human beings well and that you do not understand yourself well. You may also feel angry at yourself for being stupid, naïve, and gullible.

How do you tell if someone is trustworthy?

American fantasy and science fiction author Maria V. Snyder said, “Trusting is hard. Knowing who to trust, even harder.” After betrayal, trust problems can seem insurmountable, so I want to share with you the seven elements of trust devised by American research professor Dr. Brené Brown. When you do not know how to measure the trustworthiness of another person, you can use this tool to verify the information they give you, enabling you to make a better judgement. Trust is such a complex topic because humans are complicated; measuring and identifying it in a more concrete way will bring clarity to the problem.

According to Dr. Brown’s research, trust can be broken up into seven key elements which make up the acronym BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault (confidentiality), Integrity, Non-Judgement, and Generosity. Here is what each of these terms means in terms of evaluating trustworthiness:

(B)oundaries: They respect your boundaries, and, when they are not clear about what is okay and not okay, they ask.

(R)eliability: They do what they say they will do. They do not overpromise.

(A)ccountability: They own their mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

(V)ault: They do not share information about you that is not theirs to share, and they do not share any confidential information with you about other people.

(I)ntegrity: They choose courage over comfort. They choose what is right over what is easy. And they choose to practice their values rather than simply professing them.

(N)on-Judgement: They ask for what they need and allow you to ask for it as well. Both of you can talk about how each other feel without judgement.

(G)enerosity: They extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

Trust is dynamic and not the end of the story

In her TED Talk, German professor Anne Böckler-Raettig explained that “[t]rust is not something we can switch on; trust is an inherently dynamic process. Saying ‘I trust you’ or ‘Trust me’ is not the end of the story. It is really the beginning.

It might feel a little uncomfortable or disappointing for a lot of people to know that trust might not be permanent or fixed and that it can change. Most people, once they decide to trust someone, want that trust to last forever. However, people are complex and prone to change, which then causes the trust factors constituting the relationship between two people to change with the changing needs and expectations. This will indeed cause pain because people need safety and certainty.

But I think knowing and accepting the changing nature of trust will help us face trust problems that may arise in the relationship with a more objective and non-evasive attitude, and we will no longer be blinded by our own assumptions, which is liberating and healing.

If you have trust issues in your relationships and at work because of previous experiences of being hurt and betrayed, I am more than willing to orient you towards healing and provide you with the tools to effectively recognise the signs of distrust and trust. Here is how you can contact me:

Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Yingli Wang, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Yingli Wang, is a mental health counsellor and a mother-daughter relationship coach/therapist who ‬cares deeply about women’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.‬ Her mission is to help women between the ages of 18 and 45 to transform “Not-Good-Enough-Syndrome” into inner strength and resilience, and she also provides coaching sessions for women who struggle with their relationship with their mothers and want to establish healthy and effective boundaries. She offers professional counselling and coaching services in English and Mandarin in Southwest London and Online.



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