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Sunday, January 3, 2016
I've been thinking a lot about trust lately. It's come up in my sessions a lot as well as in conversations with my trusted advisors, so that's when I decide to write about it and process my feelings.
I'm not talking about the kind of trust like "can you keep a secret?" because lord knows most people really *can't* keep a secret, and thankfully I've only had like one secret in my whole adult life and I ended up telling 14 of my closest friends anyway. So, that's not the kind of trust I'm talking about. I don't "trust" many people in this way, and I'm not even mad about it because I know how people are. I might be the only person you know who can *actually* keep other people's secrets. (Actually I probably know a lot of your secrets; don't worry, they'll go with me to the grave).
I am referring to a more abstract sense of trust. The kind of trust that comes from knowing a person is "your people", and that you share basic values. The comfort of knowing that you're not going to suddenly discover something about them that completely disrupts your sense of them as a decent human being.
People are complex, of course, so obviously you're never going to know everything about a person right away. It takes time and a great deal of exposure to deeply understand a person. And sometimes people are not going to be at their best and so you'll see a version that is tired, or cranky, or distracted, or rude.
I do feel like I generally give people the benefit of the doubt. I assess people on an ongoing basis, as I get new information about them, I assimilate it into the old information so that at all times I have the most updated version of who/how I think they are. People I dislike or find off-putting at first pass rarely turn out to be great friends, and people I immediately feel drawn to often end up being important in my life in some way, but I am always cognizant of the idea that people are dynamic creatures who will grow and change over time. As I have experienced firsthand the frustration of people not allowing me to be a new or better version of myself, I realize how important it is to allow people this flexibility in my understanding of them.
The issue of trust comes in when I think I have a good understanding of a person and they completely blindside me with some bullshit I can't reconcile. I don't know if I'm just not good at determining who I can trust in this way, or if people are just sneaky, but I feel like I've been duped a fair number of times. I've invested a great deal into friendships only to eventually reach an impasse where something imperceptibly shifts and I feel like I just don't **trust** this person on some level. This is the thing I've been talking to clients and friends about. This abstract idea of being able to "trust" people to be decent, to be consistent, to live in alignment with the values they profess to hold.
People I thought were really "good" people I've observed doing and saying horrible things or responding callously when empathy was appropriate. A good example of this is all the people who turned out to be what I call "ever-so-slightly" racist, and then refused to reevaluate their understanding of what that means. But there's also the disruption of trust when I find out someone just isn't quite living in alignment with who and how I thought they were. And that doesn't necessarily mean they did something wrong or bad to me, it just means that this new information has rendered it impossible for me to organically feel trusting.
So, how do we move forward in situations like this? Do we bring it to the person's attention or just slowly phase them out of our lives? Are there going to be times in which it is useful to have difficult conversations like "I just don't trust you and here's why"? How do we go about doing that?