Trust: The Missing Link

by: James Greenshields

Awhile ago, on Prime Radios The Daily Agenda, I was asked to speak about trust, an essential ingredient in any relationship. Click on the below link to have a listen.

An often misused and even abused word.

But what is the essence of trust?

One of my mentors once explained it to me as having two components – mental proximity and disclosure.

Mental proximity is finding a level of common interest with a person. Be that a common work ethic or simply a subject of interest. While disclosure refers to the level of openness that develops in the communication between people.

So looking at a common example. You may have found yourself introduced to a person at a party and for the first a couple of Respect Yourselfminutes stumbled through a number of conversations topics, but none of them ignited anything – how’s the weather; where do you live; what do you do for coin? Then all of a sudden the other person drops that they are interested in football. After being wary at first about what code, you find them like the same type as you. Then the conversation takes a turn for the better. Your interest levels pick up. You’ve found some common ground for discussion – mental proximity.

Now as the conversation lengthens you give a little bit more information about yourself, and then that is reciprocated. Disclosure is occurring. And it may even get to the stage that you ask them over for a BBQ next weekend to get to know them better. The initial stages of trust have started to appear.

Looking at those you trust the most in your life, you’ll see mental proximity, or things in common, and a high level of disclosure or openness between you.

In my view there is a third element; that of respect. Once disclosure has occurred, the information and position of a person is respected and not violated. This final aspect is critical for an ongoing trusted relationship.

Have you ever seen someone backstab, or make demeaning comments about a person in their absence? The question is, do they make these comments about you when you’re not around? Do you fully trust that person? My guess is something in you is saying no, if not a thought, you might get an uneasy feeling around them. So respect hasn’t been proven and trust isn’t fully established.

Trust is pivotal in all areas of our lives.

Stephen M. R. Covey says: when trust is sufficient laws are unnecessary; when trust is insufficient laws are unenforceable.[1]

From politics to the workplace to the family, trust often appears to be the missing link. We see it when a father says to a son, I’ll take you out for a kick oRespect of Selff the footy after work today. Then work throws a curve ball at him and he makes the choice to work late missing his appointment. Without closure on promises there can be no trust. But it is not only the son who feels this. The father has broken a code of honour inside himself, and now it’s been done once a precedent has been set. Next time it could be missing a birthday party or something else really important. And the relationship suffers.

Bigger than his broken commitment to his son, was his own broken word. This is an example of a less than honest relationship with oneself. Meaning a lack of self trust.

I was walking through a supermarket the other day with my three year old daughter. She wanted to play on the Wiggles Car, but I knew we both needed to go to the toilet – and quickly! In the moment the Wiggles Car was more important to her. So I said, lets go to the toilet and then come back for a quick play, as we were running short of time. She agreed and we walked to the toilet across the corridor. On coming out I took her straight back to the car for a little play. A cleaner who’d been mopping the floor and watching my discussion with my daughter with amusement, turned to me and said I was one of the only fathers she’d seen use that line and then follow through by bringing the child back to the car.

A simple example, but in the eyes of the young child it has a series of lessons. Don’t trust Mum and Dad when they say things, because they won’t be true to their word. If they’re not true to their word, then why do I have to be?

So how do we engender trust within ourselves?

There is no quick solution. If we’ve always been plagued by mistrust, then the older we get the more track record we have of not trusting ourselves. But the journey into trust is one of the most rewarding as it directly affects every relationship in your life starting with the relationship with yourself.

Using the three mentioned elements of trust, mental proximity, disclosure and respect, we can see how it works in relation to ourselves. With self trust mental proximity is all about things of interest to ourselves. You know the feeling you get when you are doing something that you are not interested in. It can be quite hard to get up a level of enthusiasm, especially if you don’t see any point in doing it.

Disclosure is all about how honest we are with ourselves. It may seem like a rather silly thing to say, but many people don’t have an honest relationship with themselves. This is when denial is present:

I don’t have a problem with my shopping habits.

My job? Well moneys good and it kills the time.

I’m not happy in my relationship but it’s how it is after 10 years. But, but, but ………

But is a great word in a sentence because it dismisses everything else said before it. Used towards ourselves, we can form patterns of self denial and lower the level of honesty in our own relationship.

Self respect is about doing things we say we’re going to do and in line with our best interest. Everything from getting up in the morning like we said we would and doing that bit of exercise; or asserting our boundaries with people, including our loved ones. Not allowing our own best interest to constantly slide in favour of satisfying others.

People often find themselves in situations were they have gone against their own word by accident. They weren’t conscious of what they were doing. This will happen if a person is not fully aware of what is truly important to them. Without a set of priorities or values in life it we can often drift from what is important to us.

So if you don’t trust someone then the source of the mistrust may lie within. Have a look at exactly what it is that gives you this impression. Then have a look, a hard honest look, inside yourself and see if this trait is something you do. This can be a very confronting thing to do, but the benefits for your relationships are huge.

Building trust with yourself is the first step to seeing trust reflected back at you in all your relationships. Other people are on their own journey in life, which may include their own lessons around trust, so you can’t expect that just because you trust yourself others will totally change. But what you may see is that their specific relationship with you changes.


[1] Covey, S.M.R, Speed Of Trust, p 312

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