Heading Trust

It is important that people feel safe in relationships. In order for a person to feel safe, they need to trust the people they are in a relationship with. A person will trust you based on what you do, not what you say. The actions do speak louder than words and it is the actions that people believe. I know that a family can deeply wound another family member and the wounded person can confront the behavior in the other person. Unless the offending party acknowledges, confesses and repents of the hurtful behavior, the offending party can tell them until they are blue in the face that they love them but the wounded person will not believe them. Someone who loves you will not justify his behavior if it hurts you. They won’t ignore it either, hoping it will smooth over with time. It doesn’t go away and it can’t be healed until the hurtful behavior is acknowledged, confessed and repented of. Until that is done, the offender can tell the wounded person that they love them, but they are not believed. Love isn’t an emotion. A person who loves you, cares about how you feel and they want what is best for you. They will not seek their own and justify their behavior to your harm. Love doesn’t behave that way, so you see, the actions and the words are in total conflict and in direct opposition and the person will believe the actions and not the words. You can tell and even believe that you listen to someone, but if you negate and explain away everything they say to you, thus not accepting it, you are not listening and are not open. Again, the actions and words are in total opposition and conflict and the person will believe the actions, not the words. Your words will never be trusted. In fact, they will be ignored! So you see, trust comes from being consistent in words and action. You may not be able to see where you are inconsistent or hypocritical in your words or actions either so it is important to learn about the ways our actions communicate the exact opposite of what we say. There are four elements to trust. They are: Reliability, Acceptance, Openness and Congruence.

Let’s explore!


The first element of trust is reliability. People you relate to want to know if you do what you say you will do. It is pretty hard to have confidence in a person who makes promises they don’t keep.

The automobile business is a case in point. For many years there were many dealers and dealer salespeople who gave the industry a bad name by not being reliable, not standing behind their verbal claims. Things have changed, but it’s taking a long time to build back that trust that was lost industry-wide. That’s why we still have so many jokes about used car salesmen.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep, even if you think it will get the job done for you now or appease in an angry situation. In the long run, it will hurt you. Do what you say you will do, and if you can’t or won’t do it, don’t say you will.

That is the first element of trust: reliability.


As necessary as reliability is, it alone will not build trust in the interpersonal relationship. There are more elements involved. The second is acceptance.

All people want to be accepted for who they are, not judged, criticized, or made to feel inferior.

It is easy for a husband, father, parent, pastor, manager or salesperson to be seen as judging or criticizing. He/she has the position/authority because he/she is competent, knows the company, and knows what can and can’t be done and has more life experience. It is easy to give the impression to others that they are slightly stupid or inadequate for not understanding as much as the father, parent, husband, pastor, manager or salesperson understands. Using technical jargon or an obscure reference that the subordinate or customer is not familiar with or talking “down” to a person and not viewing them as equals makes the other person feel “put down” or “not as good as”. Sometimes you can just communicate this in your attitude, body language, tone of voice, negating, etc. To fix, control or change someone, especially emotionally (who they are as a person) is to communicate unacceptance. They are showing you their pearls or the most valuable contents of their heart and if you don’t view them and receive them as valuable, then you will communicate unacceptance and you will take their pearls, trample them in the mud and turn on the person in an attitude of control and fixing, all with good intentions, of course, and wanting what is best for them, I am sure! People will not trust you with the contents of their hearts and they will not want to reveal anything to you about themselves for fear that you will suck the life out of them with your criticism, negative opinions and control. They will guard their hearts as well they should and your relationships and conversations will be very superficial.

Accept the other for who he/she is — young or old, the most intelligent or the hard working not-so-intelligent, tall or short, good-looking or ugly. The other person, as long as he or she is relating to you, is okay, and it’s up to you to let that person know that when you are with him or her, that person is the most important person in the world. You’re not judging or criticizing them, you’re accepting other people as they are and for what they are.


The third element of trust is openness. People tend to want to cooperate best with people who will “level” with them, who will give them the whole story (even though some of the details may be a bit unpleasant), and who will not hide anything.

“People can take good news or bad news, but they can’t take surprises or deception.” If you discover there has been a change of plans that affect another person, or you are displeased with something, that person should be the first to know. Or, in a sales situation, if there has been a change in delivery date, the customer should be the first to know. The other person will respect and trust you more for your openness. You’ll be the kind of person that is known as honest and straightforward, and (if acceptance is included in openness), people will want to enter into a deeper relationship with you. You will be highly thought of and respected. You will receive what you have given; acceptance, reliability and openness.


The fourth and final element that builds trust is congruence, the knowledge that what you say is consistent with what you believe, what you know to be true, what you do. Simply put, you do what you say and you say what you do. This is something that codependent people have trouble with.

Congruence sounds like the same thing as reliability, but there is a difference. Reliability means following up and seeing through on a promise or commitment that you make. It means “I’ll do what I say I’ll do.”

When we say things to people, we give them a message. When people observe our actions, they are also getting a message. It is a factor of human behavior that we believe more strongly the message we see in the behavior than the message carried in the words. Take, for example, a manager who says, “My job is the most important thing in my life,” but goes off every afternoon to play golf or tennis. Take another example of a salesperson who tells a customer, “You are my biggest customer, you are important to me,” but the customer is only called on once a year. Take another example of the extremely strained relations between a mother-in-law and her son’s family (wife and children). This mother-in-law states that she wants a good relationship with her family, but when sent material and told what it is she does that is hurtful, the mother-in-law ignores any material, books, letters, etc. and exclaims that the family will just have to except her as she is. Does this mother-in-law really want a good relationship with her family? No, of course not because she won’t do what it takes to get what she says she wants. Therefore, the family does not believe her words, only her actions and she find herself excluded from their lives because they do not have to accept her hurtful behavior and they do not have to have a relationship with her. If you won’t do what it takes to get what you say you want, then don’t expect to be believed. In these examples, there is a difference between what was said and the message in the behavior. Which message will be believed most? You guessed it.

In the examples, the lack of congruence in the messages will cause a reduction, if not a total destruction in the level of trust in the mind of the person receiving the messages.

If you want to be trusted, you must make sure that your behavior gives the same message that your words have given. In short, do what you say and say what you do.

Remember, it takes a long time to build trust and it takes an instant to destroy it!

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