Let’s Talk About… Trust

By Jeremy Godwin

Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, the weekly podcast full of simple ideas for better mental health by Jeremy Godwin. Each episode focuses on practical and simple things that you can do every single day to improve and maintain your mental health and wellbeing, based on quality research.

This is Episode 54 and this week I’m talking about trust – I’ll be discussing what trust is, why it’s the foundation of every relationship you’ll ever have in your life, and how to build and maintain trust plus what to do if your trust has been betrayed (along with a discussion about trust and ghosting). So, let’s talk about mental health!

Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the article/transcript version.

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FIVE-POINT EPISODE SUMMARY
  • Trust goes hand-in-hand with boundaries, which I talked about last week in Episode 53, and it has a lot to do with truth.
  • Trust is an important part of our relationships with other people and being able to trust someone can go a long way towards influencing not just how we feel about them, but also how we feel about ourselves.
  • Unhealthy relationships that are riddled with dishonesty or disrespect can have a detrimental impact on our sense of self-worth and can lead to issues like insecurity.
  • Healthy relationships are ones that are founded on honesty and mutual respect, both of which help to build and maintain trust over time.
  • Honest communication and being open to balancing our needs with the needs of others are fundamental components of trust.

Hello and welcome to Episode 54, and thanks for joining me!

I have a quick announcement this week before I begin and it’s one I’m really excited about… last week I sent a message out to everyone on my mailing list (which you can join at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/subscribe — where you’ll get episode alerts plus exclusive updates before anyone else!), and in that message I announced that I will be turning part of the final episode for 2020 into an Ask Me Anything session! 

Episode 59 will go out on December 28 in Australia/New Zealand/the Asia-Pacific region and December 27 in the rest of the world (including USA, Canada, UK & Europe) and I’m calling it ‘Looking Back, Looking Forward’ — I’ll talk about how far we’ve all come in spite of the ‘unique’ set of challenges we’ve all faced this year ([although I’m] not quite sure that ‘unique’ fully describes 2021!), and I’ll be sharing some recommendations about preparing for 2021 in terms of your mental health and wellbeing. The second half of that episode will be an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session where I’ll answer as many questions as I can from you wonderful people who listen to my podcast every week from all the corners of the globe!

So, do you want to be involved? Your AMA questions need to be submitted to me via the Let’s Talk About Mental Health website (link below) by no later than end of day on December 1 (whatever your time zone, by the end of the day on that date). 

Note that your AMA submission must include:

  • Your name (first name minimum)
  • Your city/town, state/province and country
  • Your email address
  • Your question (please keep it less than 50 words)

As I said, I will then answer as many as possible in the final episode for 2020 (and don’t worry, I am coming back in 2021!). Please keep it clean and be nice! 🙂 You can head over to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/ama2020 to submit your question or if you follow me on Instagram (@ltamentalhealth) you’ll find a link in my profile that will take you there in the blink of an eye. I’ve already had lots of questions come in from my mailing list subscribers so make sure you submit yours asap (and by no later than December 1) so you don’t miss out!

Alright, now on with this week’s episode which is all about trust… 

Introduction

Trust is something that goes hand-in-hand with boundaries, which I talked about last week in Episode 53, and it has a lot to do with truth; in fact, there’s a quote by an unknown author that I absolutely love which goes, “Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.” 

Today it can sometimes seem more difficult than ever before to wade through all the misinformation that’s out there — the outrageous news stories that are completely made-up, the random articles shared on social media as ‘truth’ when they have no actual evidence to back them up… hell, even photos and videos can be deep-faked if people work hard enough at it. All of that stuff can be damaging to the sense of trust we have in our broader world and it takes a lot of work to be able to step back and critically analyse what we’re being bombarded with day in, day out. 

And then on top of that we have to contend with building and maintaining trust in our own relationships; with our partner, family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, and so on. We want to think that people are kind and fair, and have our best interests in mind, however that’s not always the case… and so we need to find a way to navigate trust that doesn’t shut us off from the world entirely but also which doesn’t leave us being taken advantage of or having our hearts broken.

So, how do you do that? How do you ensure your most important relationships are based on mutual respect and trust? Well, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today; it’s a big topic but hopefully by the end of the episode you’ll have a few simple ideas that you can put into practice immediately (since that’s the point of this whole show!). Let’s start with some definitions…

What is trust?

Trust is about having a firm belief in the truth or reliability of something or someone; when you trust someone, you believe that they will do as you expect them to. It’s an important part of our relationships with other people and being able to trust someone can go a long way towards influencing not just how we feel about them but also how we feel about ourselves. 

I’ve talked in previous episodes about how I switched careers a few years ago and completed a degree in psychology and sociology, and I chose those two subjects — one which looks at the individual and the other which looks at the group — because I very firmly believe that there’s no set distinction between our internal world (the one we live in our mind) and our external world (the one we experience as we interact with others and society as a whole), so I think it’s important to look at our overall mental health and wellbeing in a holistic way rather than splitting our focus into just the internal or the external (and yeah, I know I’m getting all philosophical once again!). I was just talking to my partner in the car about that this morning (don’t get any big ideas, it wasn’t some great big intellectual conversation — I was commenting on how funny it is that I can finally justify specialising in those two areas) and that conversation led me to this point: we create the world around us through our words, actions and feelings, yet at the same time the world around us creates us. What does that have to do with trust? Everything. If we trust ourselves, our experience is a very different one than if we don’t trust ourselves… and at the same time, if we trust other people, the world is enormously different than if we don’t trust other people. 

Why is trust important? 

Well, it’s the foundation of every healthy relationship you’ll ever have — without mutual respect and trust, the ‘healthy’ bit cannot exist…

Trust and healthy relationships go hand-in-hand. When we have healthy relationships in our life that our founded on mutual trust, honesty and respect, it can go a long way towards helping us to feel good about ourselves and can serve to improve our self-esteem; but when our relationships are unhealthy and riddled with dishonesty or disrespect, that can have a detrimental impact on our sense of self-worth and can lead to issues like insecurity. A healthy relationship based on trust is one where you feel safe with the other person [and] where you know you can confide in them and it won’t be shared or used against you, and it’s about being seen as a human being and giving the same level of respect and courtesy back. I talked about this a lot in Episode 38 (Let’s Talk About… Relationships) and I encourage you to check that out; you can find it and all past episodes of Let’s Talk About Mental Health at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes (where you’ll find audio for each episode plus full transcripts). 

When you deal with people outside of your immediate circle, there’s a massive element of trust that goes along with it. Each time you hire a tradesperson to do work on your home, you’re trusting that they know what they’re doing and will do the job properly. If you or someone you know goes to hospital, you’re putting your trust in the doctors and nurses that they will provide proper care and kindness.

Even at work, trust plays a huge role. Some of our relationships at work are purely transactional, in terms of interacting with specific people to get things done for the sake of our jobs, and then many relationships develop a layer of personal connection that in some cases can even develop into actual friendships — many of my own friends are people I’ve worked with, and I think that comes back to the fact that I’m pretty much my authentic self in the workplace (if not a little better behaved than I might be at home!) and that sense of connecting with other people on a human level can play a huge role in building and maintaining trust (by the way, I’ll be talking about authenticity as the topic for next week’s episode!).

So how do you build and maintain trust? Well, let’s jump into the how-to part of this week’s episode…

How to build and maintain trust

There are four parts of this ‘how-to’ section that I’ll be covering today: building and maintaining trust in relationships, trust and the wider world, what to do if your trust has been betrayed, and then trust and ghosting. Let’s begin with…

Building and Maintaining Trust in Relationships:

Regardless of whether you’re thinking about work relationships or personal relationships, there’s really no difference in terms of trust except for the level of intimacy (assuming you’re keeping your work and personal lives separate!). There are a few things to consider:

  • Identify what trust means to you in each situation — for example, at work or at school that might mean trusting your peers to do their share of the group’s work; at home, that might mean being able to discuss your innermost fears with someone you’re close to without them being used against you or shared with others. Each relationship is unique and I think sometimes we forget to take a moment to step back and look at the big picture by making sure we’re clear about what trust means to us and then communicating that, and so often that can lead to misunderstandings because others might not know what we expect of them.
  • Look at any issues around trust that might be present — if you have had your heart broken a few times then you’re probably going to find trusting a new person to be difficult and so that’s a trust issue that needs to be confronted head-on and dealt with. I talked about baggage all the way back in Episode 7 so that may prove useful, however for things that you might be really struggling with it’s a good idea to work with a qualified professional (like a counsellor or therapist) so you can dig deep and address the root cause(s).
  • Be clear on your values and stick to them — e.g. Honesty, fairness, kindness… these are all things that go to the very core of who you are as a person and so it’s important to be clear about what your values are and then to incorporate them into all of your relationships so that you’re being authentic, which can lead to other people feeling more able to connect with you and trust you.
  • Set your boundaries and stick to them — again, I spent a whole episode covering boundaries last week in Episode 53 so check that out… the main point here is that if you don’t have clear boundaries or you don’t maintain them, you aren’t doing what you need to do to look after yourself and your needs when it comes to trust, so it’s a very important part of good mental health.
  • Make the effort and take your time — all things take time, effort and perseverance (which I discussed back in Episode 51), so be mindful that trust is something built over time; take things one day at a time, one step at a time, and don’t rush the process because it will take time to build genuine trust. 
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt — most people really are are far more focused on what’s going on in their own lives than they are in interfering with others, so rather than thinking the worst of other people’s intentions I think it’s important to be trusting and give them the benefit of the doubt (but of course don’t let people walk all over you!) — this is a big part of realistic optimism which was the subject of Episode 47, so check that out for more detail. 
  • Ask for what you need — don’t make people guess or expect them to magically know what you need, actually ask for what you need; nobody is a mind-reader and if you assume that other people know what you need well… you know what the first three letters [of ‘assume’] spell out! Asking for what you need is a way of being kind to others (because you’re not making them guess or keeping them in the dark) as well as being kind to yourself (because if you don’t ask, you don’t get!).
  • Give what you expect — I hope it goes without saying that you should treat other people the way you want to be treated… but I’ll say it anyway. You get back what you put out, so be fair and reasonable in the way you deal with others which then leads to greater mutual trust.
  • Address issues early — do this by asking questions rather than assuming, but also following your instincts… I talked about assertiveness in Episode 45 and I’d highly recommend you check that out for more on the subject. The main thing is to call issues out if and when you see them because often it can be a misunderstanding or a different perspective, so if you iron out problems while they’re still small then they stop growing into bigger issues. I use this a lot, combined with my ‘three strikes and you’re out’ thing, and it works 99% of the time; but of course sometimes things will happen that take you by surprise but that is inevitable in life and you cannot be prepared for everything! But for the most part, if you tackle issues early they have a higher likelihood of working out more positively (or at least causing you less pain in the future in terms of dealing with deeper trust issues).

Trust and the wider world:

In general: be curious. Ask questions. Know the difference between reliable sources and unreliable ones. Don’t just take things at face value. Don’t go all the way in the other direction and become mistrusting, but instead search for and find balance in all things. Know the difference between a quality resource or news source and ones that are more about sensationalism in order to sell more advertising or drive a specific political agenda. Take the time to develop your critical thinking skills and when you read or hear something, especially if it sounds outrageous, don’t just immediately take it as truth; explore, ask questions, find evidence from multiple reputable sources.

You’re responsible for what you believe, because your beliefs have a direct impact on how you interact with others and with the world, so if you’re buying in to stuff or spreading false information, you’re actually contributing to all the ongoing trust issues that we’re facing as a society. As always, choose to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem… and you make that happen by doing no harm, being kind and giving more than you take.  

What do you do if your trust has been betrayed?

There are lots of different ways this could happen — of course, infidelity or cheating in a romantic relationship is a big one, but it can also happen in friendships, family relationships etc. due to lying, manipulation, theft, betrayal of confidence, broken promises and so on.

If your trust has been betrayed, there’s a few things to do and I’m going to draw from an article in Healthline (find it here: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-rebuild-trust#if-youve-been-betrayed):

  • Communicate how you feel about the situation and what impact it has had on you
  • Take some time to consider the reason behind the lie or betrayal — sometimes these types of things can be a symptom of a deeper issue, so it’s important not just to react but instead explore what’s really going on and then confront and address the root cause
  • If you need to let go of the relationship, then let go — this is always your choice and only you can decide what’s right for you (which I talked about in Episode 22 and Episode 32); I’d also say here that knowing when you need to let go versus when you want to let go are two very different things, and as hard as it can be it’s important not to cling on to things that are no longer in your best interests, regardless of how scary that might be.
  • If you feel you can find a way forward with them, communicate what you need the other person to do to rebuild the trust
  • Know and accept that if something has broken, it will not repair in exactly the same way because it cannot; you can’t go backwards. Something new will be created and it can be an opportunity to grow… but it will never be identical to what it was before, and I think acceptance is a really important part of that (and I covered ‘acceptance’ in Episode 36).
  • Focus on the now — that means that if you do decide to move forward with the other person, you need to genuinely let go of the past meaning that you don’t wield it as a weapon and bring it up over and over again. If that triggers feelings of insecurity for you, I recommend working with a professional and you can also check out Episode 35 for a deeper look at insecurity.

And if you’re the one who did the betraying of trust? Make it right.

Own up to it, acknowledge what impact it has had and apologise… and ask the other person what you can do to make it right. Other than that (and not doing it again!), it’s out of your hands; the other person might find a way to forgive, or they might not, and either way you have no control other than your own words, actions and feelings. It may be necessary to work with a qualified counsellor or therapist in order to try to find a way forward, and that’s something I recommend a lot so consider how you can get some objective support for navigating through everything.

Trust and Ghosting:

First of all, like I said last week: please do not ghost anyone. Ever. I know confrontation is tough for a lot of people and it can be easier to avoid the person, but it’s just unkind. My advice is to set clear boundaries and enforce consequences so that if and when you do have to cut off contact, it’s hardly a surprise to the other person — trust me when I say you’ll be able to sleep with a clearer conscience that way. Check out Episode 53 for more specific advice around setting and maintaining healthy boundaries as well as Episode 45 which is all about Assertiveness.

And so what if you’ve been ghosted? I’ve been asked to tackle this one a few times as its own episode and I go back and forth on it — I may look at it next year — but to be frank I think I’ve probably avoided it because I’ve dealt with it myself from a particular friend over the past few years and even now it still stings sometimes; this is someone I was practically best friends with for more than 12 years and then after we moved to the country, she never initiated contact so it was always left to me to get in touch and then my messages just wouldn’t be answered 99% of the time. For the most part I’ve let go — I mean obviously I haven’t fully let go, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it here! — but we’re still friends on Facebook, for example, and every now and then when I actually go on that thing (since I’m more of an Instagram person) I see posts and it can cause a few twinges of pain even now, and we’re talking five or almost six years later… I know deep down I should let go completely and cut that final cord, but I’m not quite there yet. So here’s my point: being ghosted is shitty, and nothing I can say will change that fact. What I can say is that it’s not about you; people choose what they do or don’t do, and even if worst-case-scenario they might have stopped talking to you because of an issue or whatever, if they chose to take the easy way out so they could avoid confrontation then that’s on them. 

Look, I bring this subject up this week because being ghosted, regardless of whether it’s by a friend or a romantic partner, hurts like hell and it can cause major trust issues… but you can only control what’s within your direct control (your words, actions and feelings — and especially what you do with your feelings, in terms of either letting them control you or you taking control of them). Sadly this whole ghosting things seems to be more and more common, and call me old-fashioned but I think it comes back to our society being a lot less considerate of one another’s feelings, which is why I always bang on about doing no harm, being kind and giving more than you take. So if you’ve been ghosted, then really there are two things here to do: first, remind yourself it’s not about you. It’s about them and the choices they have made. It’s really not about you. I know that’s cold comfort but it’s really important to be clear on that, even if it does hurt. That hurt will eventually fade, and in the meantime you need to focus on today and putting one foot in front of the other, and you do that by being the best version of you that you can possibly be. And the second thing to do is to work through your feelings of hurt and pain by proactively letting go, which is something that takes time and I explored the ‘how-to’ part of letting go back in Episode 32, so check that out. I would also suggest that for serious issues, which can be big life events, then it’s time to go and talk to a professional who can help you work through it in a more objective and less emotional way. Just know that regardless of what has happened, that doesn’t mean it will happen again… and eventually you will feel ready to trust again. In the meantime, take your time and treat yourself with kindness.

Summary and Close-Out

Because when it comes to trust and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: Trust is the foundation of every relationship you’ve ever had and ever will have, because without trust there cannot be mutual respect — and that goes for your closest personal relationships as well as how you deal with the rest of the world in general. When we focus on fear and mistrust, what we’re doing is pumping out negative energy and putting up barriers that say the world is something we have to protect ourselves from… but it’s not. Most people are kind, and most people want to do the right thing by their fellow human beings, and so when we focus on building and maintaining trust with everyone we come into contact with, what we’re doing is sending a message to the whole world that says, “hey, I see you and I trust that, just like me, what you want most out of life is to be happy and to find meaning.” And every time you do that, you help to create a world that is just a little bit better than it was yesterday. 

Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by the American writer and minister Frank Crane, and it is:

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough.”

Frank Crane

Next week I’ll be talking about authenticity. I’ll be discussing what authenticity is, why it’s the foundation of not just your mental health but your overall happiness, and how to be your most authentic self every single day.

I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Monday 30 November in the morning in Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; the evening of Sunday 29 November in the UK, Ireland, Europe and the Middle East; and the afternoon of Sunday 29 November in the US, Canada, Central America and South America. 

You can find past episodes and additional content at the website which is letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au. You can also find Let’s Talk About Mental Health on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as @ltamentalhealth, and discover additional content on the Let’s Talk About Mental Health YouTube channel (click here) — if you haven’t already subscribed to the YouTube channel please do as there will be a lot of extra content coming to that platform very soon.

If you enjoyed this episode, please take a moment to leave a five-star review on your preferred podcast platform and tell someone you know about the show (because word of mouth really helps new people to discover the program).

Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time.

Jeremy 🙂

Did you like what you just read? Then please share this with someone who might appreciate it, like a friend, family member, or coworkerword of mouth helps other people to find Let’s Talk About Mental Health!

Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Because the more we talk about it, the easier it gets.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2020 Jeremy Godwin.

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