Two levels of trust

A friend talks about you behind your back. Your significant other makes decisions that impact you both without your input. Your supposed advocate throws you under the bus to protect her own reputation, position, or livelihood. We’ve all had our trust broken at one time or another. And put simply, if inelegantly: it sucks.

That’s why it is so tempting to frame trust as predictability. When we can anticipate the actions of others, we can exhale. I can let my guard down a bit at a green light because the Department of Transportation has promised me that crossways traffic will be halted by a red light. If I know what you’re going to do, I can trust you.

But is predictability the full measure of trust? Some of the most relationship-deepening moments I’ve experienced were the result of surprise. Unexpected words of affirmation or acts of care. Sharing a hidden piece of one’s soul. Defending another at great risk to self. Anticipated? No. Trust-building? You’d better believe it.

I may trust that oncoming cars will obey the law, but I’m still going to drive defensively. (I hope others will do the same!) But in the world of relationships, people will know and be known only at a surface level if we stay on our side of the double yellow line. The more foundational level of trust, then, involves risk-taking. Being vulnerable and creating space for others to do the same.

What relationships, either with individuals or groups, need to grow roots down into that lower layer of trust? How can you take the first step by sharing something about yourself that lets the other know it’s safe to return in kind?

Creative Commons image “Trust” by Terry Johnston is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

One thought on “Two levels of trust

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