How to Build Trust in a Relationship

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  • 0:05 Trust as a General Concept
  • 1:05 Trust in Interpersonal…
  • 2:20 Professional Relationships
  • 3:57 Personal Relationships
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Trust is essential for any strong relationship, but it's not something that comes natural to us. Through this lesson, you will learn about different types of trust and how to establish and maintain trust in personal and professional relationships.

Trust as a General Concept

From the moment we're born, trust is a critically important aspect of our lives. Yet for all its significance in our development, it's not something that comes pre-installed in our brains. In fact, as young children most of us experience what's known as stranger anxiety, referring to the feelings of fear and anxiety that children have about unfamiliar people or places. So, if we're not designed to be trusting, how do we develop trust as adults?

As we age and develop cognitive and communication skills, we become better able to identify peoples' motives and behaviors, which makes stranger anxiety unnecessary. Indeed, if stranger anxiety doesn't fade over time, it can become crippling for adults. Moreover, as we grow older and engage with the world around us, we tend to develop a propensity to generally trust our society. This is because our experiences have told us that people are generally trustworthy and aren't likely to harm us.

Trust in Interpersonal Relationships

You might be wondering why, if we have an inherent trust in society, is it necessary to build trust in relationships. After all, if we trust our general society, wouldn't we also trust the people with whom we have relationships? Well, not necessarily. The reason it's important to understand trust as a general social concept is because it's somewhat different from the trust we build in interpersonal relationships, which are the relationships that you have with friends, family, co-workers, or other people with whom you have a connection or bond.

So, why do these relationships require a different type of trust? The trust that you place in general society is kind of an abstract concept. You trust that a driver won't hit you while you're in a cross walk or that you won't get mugged by a stranger. Trust in interpersonal relationships, on the other hand, has concrete applications within the relationship between yourself and the other person. In simple terms, the trust you place in a friend or family member has clear meaning because it comes with certain easily identifiable risks. Unlike the unconscious trust we place in our general society, the trust we have in our interpersonal relationships is something that must be built and maintained.

Professional Relationships

Broadly speaking, our interpersonal relationships can be broken down into two categories: personal and professional. Our professional relationships are those we have with people like doctors and co-workers. In these relationships, trust is the product of three intersecting personality traits:

  1. Competence, or a person's ability to successfully do something
  2. Reliability, whether or not they consistently follow through
  3. Sincerity, which is the extent to which they are honest about their intentions

Imagine that you've just arrived at an appointment with your new doctor and after waiting in their office, he finally comes in 30 minutes late. You explain that you think you have the flu, but, although he's nodding sympathetically, he doesn't really seem like he's listening. When you're done talking he gives you a Band-Aid and sends you on your way. Do you trust your new doctor? In this case, the doctor has demonstrated that he's unreliable by showing up late, insincere or not listening to you, and incompetent because he's giving you a Band Aid for the flu.

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