Trust is questionably one of the most complex and misunderstood concepts that we are faced with in our daily lives. Its meaning is encapsulated within various connotations – ask five friends, you’ll get five definitions – and ironically, it becomes difficult to trust in one definition alone. Yet, trust is deemed as one of the most important components of our society and ourselves.
To focus on trust as an embodiment of one thing and one thing only is impossible, as trust is influenced by numerous factors. However, for the purpose of time and reader interest I’m going to focus on the matter at hand from a psychology point of view. According to developmental theories, the development of basic trust happens within the first 2 years of life. Like I said, it’s complex and it’s at this point which we could delve into attachment theories. However, we’re going to fast forward to adulthood and relationships.
When we link trust to people and behaviour, trust is believing that the person who is trusted will do what is expected. It is being vulnerable to someone even when they are trustworthy, because regardless of trust, we cannot fully predict another person’s behaviour, we can only trust. Therefore, when we think of trust towards others as being binary or linear, it is vital to remember that we are breaking the concept down, into trust in behaviours, rather than trust in an individual as a whole.
Let me give you an example, you trust your partner to be faithful, however when you ask them to mop the floor whilst you’re at work, you don’t trust them to carry out this action, as you know this is something they always say they’ll do, but they don’t. It’s a behaviour trait. Not trusting them to do as you ask regarding this behaviour, is a result of learned outcomes from this individual. This does not mean that you don’t trust your partner, it simply emphasises that trust comes in various forms and is an embodiment of several behaviours. If these behaviours align with your values and principles, then trust in this regard inspires positive expectations towards that person.
A person’s ability to trust others can be considered a personality trait and as a result is considered a strong predictor of individual well-being. In particular, they say trust increases individual well-being as it enhances the quality of relationships, and happy people are skilled at nurturing healthy relationships. As relationships are made up of attitudes, values and behaviours (to name but a few), trust in particular can be argued as binary, when looking at individual factors. You either trust or you don’t. However, like I said before, you can trust some behaviours and not others. It depends on how the majority weighs and which attitudes and values are met, that then determines whether you trust as a whole. When we think of trust as binary, we think of it as on or off and whilst we as individuals have the power to turn in on, past behaviours of others do influence how we feel. Therefore it is important for us to identify the deeper roots of our mistrust with that person and overcome them.
Remember, if a person has broken your trust, it is completely acceptable if you need an individual to complete a desired behaviour more than once, in order for you to trust that behaviour as longstanding. However, eventually you need to decide whether you decide to grant trust (or not) and whether trust in this behaviour is needed to align with the values and beliefs of your relationship.