“Let me ask you something,” he said.
There was a look of earnestness in his eyes, seen only in those few moments of clarity, open and true.
“How do you get people to trust you?” he asked.
To my surprise, the words stung. There was just something about the question that rubbed me the wrong way, some assumption that belittled the true beauty and depth of the answer itself—like when people talk about how easy life is for those who are good-looking or talented. Try telling anyone belonging to either category how easy it is to wear their shoes; if they have any self respect at all, they’d tell you to go to hell… in a hand basket… or however the heck that phrase goes. The point is, the question itself implicates manipulation, as if it’s necessary to trick people into trusting me.
His eyes grew wide with anticipation, the expression on his face revealing the expectation that hid just behind his brow. My next sentences were to be some age old secret of mystic past, an artful device of wizards and scholars alike, or, perhaps, knowledge gleaned from the collective consciousness of ancient wisdom long forgotten. The goods is that I didn’t disappoint; not in the sense that the answer to this question is of a nature beyond the grasp of humanity, but rather in that, there indeed is a failure of ability in modern living to realize it completely. While the concept later revealed to my friend is certainly acknowledged and grasped by modern thinking, there is an apparently disconnect in its implementation.
We understand things well, but we don’t live them well.
Truly, I hated the question, and I told him so.
“Actually, I don’t really like that question, as it assumes that I have to manipulate people into trusting me, that for them to trust me, I must do something to trick them.”
He pleaded once more. “Okay, so what’s the answer?”
I leaned into the back of my chair.
“Well, the answer is that: if you want people to trust you, you have to become a trustworthy person“.
That’s it folks. That’s the big secret. You can’t make someone trust you anymore than you can make it rain outside. You must create the conditions necessary for others to trust you. For some, it may take more time and effort, but as long as you work toward developing some of the things I’ve outline below, you’ll be on your way to becoming that person everyone can easily trust.
1.) Develop the BIG THREE virtues of a trustworthy person: integrity, compassion, and humility.
Those who wish to confide in others, seek counsel, or rely on someone in times of need, often turn to a person they respect. If people don’t respect you, they’ll never really trust you. Talking about co-workers behind their backs, constantly complaining about anything and everything, or even having been associated with some act of betrayal or illicit conduct are all red flags for those seeking to trust you. It’s common for people to gravitate towards those who they feel have integrity. Having integrity doesn’t mean being perfect; it means means having a reasonable moral compass, exercising transparency and honesty, and having resolve in one’s decisions. People who tend to change their opinions a lot, or “choose sides” for the purpose of social gain, are more likely to be perceived as having poor integrity. People looking to trust you have to know that you stand on firm moral ground; no one wants to get trapped in quicksand. Sometimes you have to be the example, possessing the qualities people wish to see within themselves—that’s integrity.
Compassion is something that’s often ill-defined or under-defined. It isn’t simply being kind; being compassionate means having the capacity to really put the suffering of others in the forefront of your mind, to be consumed with genuine empathy for another person’s situation. Those who practice true compassion, do their best to listen attentively to the story of those who want to be heard. One of the most important requirements for true compassion is a genuine interest in others; we must develop strong attention and let our hearts open to receive the messages and pain of those who need us.
Humility is virtue that goes hand-in-hand with compassion. We cannot have room for others if our minds and hearts are occupied by our egos. To truly care for someone, to truly hear their stories, we must postpone ours and put selfishness aside. If it angers you that a homeless man may spend your dollar on alcohol instead of food, your ego is too big. Dropping your storyline and allowing others to take center stage is vital to becoming a person that people trust.
In addition to these three attributes, you’ll have to develop some basic communications skills as well. The following are most imperative.
If you’re always thinking about what to say next, or you’re cutting off people mid-sentences, you’re not listening. Someone once say we have two ears and one mouth for a reason: we have to listen twice as much as we speak. This also means to say that, people aren’t always looking for advice or suggestions. Sometimes people just need you to listen—and that’s all.
B.) Eye Contact
If you don’t know this one already, you should probably just give up on being a trustworthy person—because, quite frankly, you don’t have the intuition to survive a human existence. Every human being understands the power of eye contact; it says, “I’m here”, “I’m present”, and “You have my full attention.” People can read body language on a subconscious level, and they’re better at it than you think. If you’re looking around the room or at your cell phone all the time, no one will ever trust you—simple as that.
There is no such thing as “getting” people to trust you. If you’re a trustworthy person, people can sense that, and they’ll go to you. But, becoming a trustworthy person isn’t about developing special techniques or unique talents, it’s about developing our own humanity. By sharpening your innate human capacities, you can become someone that people rely on, seek counsel from, and trust with their lives. Like anything else, evolving your humanity takes practice and patience; it won’t happen overnight. But, if you’re committed to elevating your humanity to a plane that invites others to share their most intimate experiences with you, developing the skills I’ve outlined here is a perfect stepping stone to that very end.