Trust is the foundation of every healthy relationship. We treat trust like it’s a mystical, undefinable concept, but it’s actually very concrete. I believe this simple explanation of the process of building trust can be a helpful tool for you to measure the current trust in your relationship and also to understand how to take trust to a deeper level. Stronger trust always creates stronger relationships.
TRUST defined: “Trust is a choice to be available, vulnerable and transparent in a relationship, because the person you’re trusting has proven worthy of your partnership through consistency in their honesty, integrity and dependability.”
Based on this simple definition of trust, we see that trust is much more than a gut feeling or a blind faith in someone. It’s merit-based. For this reason, trust is completely different than love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness can’t be earned (only given freely), but trust can’t be given freely; it must be earned. Trust is the only vital part of a relationship that must be earned. We don’t have to trust someone in order to love or forgive them, but love and forgiveness are vital to allowing trust to have the opportunity to be rebuilt when it’s been broken.
Here’s how trust works in every relationship (in a nutshell):
The 5 Stages of Trust:
Stage 1: Connection
We’re drawn to someone and feel a “connection” which propels us to start the process of building a relationship (whether a romantic relationship, a friendship, a business relationship/partnership, etc). The connection motivates us to invest the time necessary
Stage 2: Caution*
We cautiously start to pursue the possibility of trust in this fledgling relationship. We start creating opportunities where we can observe this person’s character in action and allow them to view the same in us. We’re careful to proceed with caution and patience, because the process of building trust is delicate and it requires time.*Whenever trust is broken in a relationship, we must always return to this second stage and proceed with caution to allow trust to be rebuilt through the remaining stages.
Stage 3: Consistency
This is where trust truly begins to form. Consistency is the primary ingredient of trust. When we observe consistency in honest words and actions from someone, we naturally let our guard down and can experience the deeper levels of relational intimacy trust always makes possible. Their consistency gives us the courage to take the next step.
Stage 4: Courage
Trust is rooted in viewing consistency in another person, but it still requires an element of faith and courage. This is the point in the relationship where we’re ready to put our heart on the line (or money on the line if it’s a business relationship/partnership). We’re willing to assume some risk (which is required in every relationship) because we now feel safe and secure with this person.
Stage 5: Commitment
Our courage to trust always leads to a commitment. Every relationship requires some level of commitment, and the level of our commitment will ultimately define the level of our relationship. This is more pronounced in a marriage relationship where the commitment is a sacred, lifelong vow, but even in friendship and business relationships, some level of commitment is always required.
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