10 Crucial and Surprising Steps to Build Trust
By Dr. Robert Huizenga
1. Be predictable.
When do seeds of suspicion emerge? When one begins
to think, “What’s up? Why is he doing
that? He’s never done that before? That
is so unlike him?” He loses 30 pounds,
buys a new wardrobe and comes home late from
work. He changes his patterns. His behavior becomes
unpredictable. You get the picture? Any movement
away from predictable behavior can become suspect
and trust can deteriorate.
Focus on acting predictably if you need to build
trust. Be consistent in what you do.
This doesn’t mean you must be boring. If
there is a twinkle in your eye and a dose of
spontaneity every so often, for goodness’ sakes,
be spontaneous and fun loving. But be spontaneous
consistently. Be true to who you have always
been and be that consistently, whoever you tend
2. Inform your significant other when
you become “unpredictable.”
No one goes through life the same person.
We all make shifts and changes. Frankly sometimes
we may be fairly clueless about what is happening
and where we are going. Those times may be very
intense and we do some silly things or make some
downright dumb decisions. Life can get very squirrelly
and unpredictable. (I have a favorite phrase:
Gold is refined through intense heat.) Growth
in an individual, marriage or family often is
accompanied by a little chaos.
Welcome these shifts, for there is a part of
you searching for something better/different/richer/deeper,
but inform your partner of what you are experiencing.
Say, “I really don’t know what is
going on in me right now, but I’m moving
in a different direction. Be a little patient
with me while I figure this out. I might do some
silly things, but my intent is not to harm you
or scare you. Accept some of my wondering and
wandering and please be there for me. I may need
to run some of this by you every so often!”
Make sure your words match the message.
Mean what you say and say what you mean. When
your partner hears one thing in your words but
your tone of voice, body language and facial
expressions are really saying something else,
which message is she to believe? This can waste
a tremendous amount of energy and she learns
not to trust part of what you are saying.
a very simple but common example. You are getting
ready to go to a formal dinner. Your wife comes
to you and says, “How do I look?” (And
she’s wearing a dress you don’t particularly
like and her hair is pulled back in a way that
turns you off.) Not wanting to spoil the evening,
you enthusiastically say, “You look great.” You
don’t really mean it and a part of her
knows you really don’t mean it. But you
leave it at that.
This might not seem like a big deal – we
all have done something similar – but if
trust is shaky to begin with, it is even shakier
now. Here’s how to match the words with
the nonverbal: “I think you are a beautiful
person. I want you to know that. I love you dearly
and it will be wonderful to have you by my side
tonight. Others will see your beauty.” (As
you say this, you look into her eyes as you put
your hands around her waist.)
She’s not concerned so much with how she
looks but is expressing a need for affirmation.
She’s not talking about her dress or hair,
but about wanting to know the evening is going
to go just fine. You respond to the real message.
You can take this one step further, if you like.
At some point, you might bring up her need for
affirmation and talk about that. Ask her is there
is anything you can say or do so that need is
Trust is awareness of the intent beneath the
obvious message and responding to that!
the other person is competent.
I hear this phrase very often: “But I don’t
want to hurt him.” A couple things are
at play here. First, she may not have the skill
of confronting the other with the truth in a
way that brings reconciliation and understanding.
She believes truth telling is destructive or
entails some sort of drama. Neither is true.
The truth is never destructive and can be conveyed
in loving ways. (With that said, what we believe
to be the truth may indeed be a distorted perception
that fits our personal needs.)
Or she may see the other person as a wimp; someone
she believes cannot handle rigorous personal
confrontation. She doesn’t trust that the
other personal has the internal strength or stamina
or skills to be in a relationship of mutual respect
and equality. The other person picks up on this
mistrust and does what he does (feigns inadequacy
and incompetence) to avoid the personal confrontation
as well. A dance is acted out.
Believe and know in your heart that the other
person, somewhere and somehow, beneath the games,
has the internal strength and capacity to handle
anything. Such trust builds trust in the other
person and begins to pervade the relationship. “Hey,
she thinks I can handle this! Hmmmm, this is
mighty good! I CAN engage her and be truly intimate!”
Be very, very careful of keeping secrets.
If he knows there is an elephant in the room
and doesn’t talk about it, the elephant
takes up tremendous space in the relationship.
It takes energy for him to walk around it. She
may not see the elephant but knows he is bending
his neck to look around something. She will be
curious, mildly disturbed, have feelings but
no words to wrap around them, might wonder if
something is wrong with her or struggle with
trusting her intuition (her intuition KNOWS an
elephant is there). And, when we can’t
trust the messages that come from within us,
we find it very difficult to trust the messages
of the other person.
Secrets demand tremendous energy and erode trust.
The relationship is doomed never to experience
wall-banging intimacy. This is why extramarital
affairs are so damaging. She is not so much concerned
about him having sex with someone else as she
is about the betrayal, lack of trust, the secrets
and deception that are crazy-making and energy-draining.
I’m not saying that you sit your partner
down and divulge the 23 secrets of your illicit
past behaviors. If you have resolved those, i.e.
forgiven yourself, understand those behaviors,
learned from them and were able to use them to
make the internal shifts necessary for your personal
development, they do not qualify as an elephant.
Hopefully, in the course of growing intimacy
in your relationship you may want to share some
of those events as you disclose to your partner
where you were and where you are now. You do
so without emotional charge.
However, if a secret takes up room, i.e. still
has an emotional charge and holds you back from
disclosing more and more of yourself in the growing
stages of intimacy, you have a problem that needs
to be addressed with your partner.
6. Let YOUR
needs be known - loudly.
Be a little - no, a lot - self-centered. (Be
self-centered, but not selfish!)
Here’s a problem I run into almost every
day. He is backing away (perhaps attached to
work, another person, etc.). She feels the trust
and intimacy eroding, is scared and wants to “win
him back.” So she begins an all-out effort
to “work on the marriage.” She invites
him to do so as well. He may reluctantly agree.
She blasts full throttle ahead trying to “be
nice” and meet every need he ever said
he had. She’s going to “fill his
tank with goodies.”
Doesn’t work. Her eyes are riveted on him.
He feels “smothered” or maybe even
resentful: “Why is she doing this NOW!” She’s
hopeful, but eventually that turns to resentment.
Her underlying motive – if I meet his needs,
he will feel good and meet mine – just
doesn’t work. It’s perceived as manipulation,
which it is. Of course, he doesn’t say
anything. After all, how do you get angry with
someone who is so “nice and caring?”
disintegrates under a blanket of quiet niceties.
Start with your eyes focused on YOU. What do
YOU need? Explore your personal need system.
Dig beneath the surface. And then say to him: “I
need…x, y and z. I would like to talk to
you about them. I would like us to work out a
way so my needs are met. Are you open to that?”
He is empowered to say yes or no. Or, he may
say, “What about my needs?” You respond, “I
am very interested in hearing what is important
to you, certainly.”
Have you ever been around someone who stated
clearly what they needed/wanted? Didn’t
you respect that person? Because you knew where
he stood, and therefore where you stood, didn’t
that interaction move toward a trusting relationship?
7. State who YOU are – loudly.
It is very sad to see those in relationships
of emotional investment hold back from letting
the other person know who they really are.
You build trust in a relationship by entrusting
your SELF to the other person.
This sounds easy but I find it difficult for
most to pull off. Most of us have a difficult
time declaring our SELF. For one thing, if you’re
like most of us, you haven’t given much
thought to what it is that makes YOU truly YOU.
Don’t you feel like you glide through life
on autopilot, focusing on tasks, goals, accomplishments,
problems and the external realities?
Don’t you tend to focus on those things
out there or that person out there? You’re
concerned about what he is thinking, how he is
responding to you, whether he likes you, whether
he will be an obstacle and where he will fit
in your life?
Your conversations may be pleasant but fairly
superficial and bluntly, boringly inane. You
converse about thing/relationships/events out
there. You are reluctant to share your thoughts,
values, and impressions or take a stand. This
doesn’t destroy trust. But it doesn’t
create it either. And, if you do take a stand,
it may serve the purpose of protecting you or
entrenching you as you react against someone.
This more often than not creates trust barriers.
Take some time to reflect on your standards.
What are your standards for a relationship? What
standards do you hold for yourself? What do you
order your life around? What are the 4 top values
in your life? What are some themes that you live
by? What are you known for?
letting significant people in your life know.
They will respect you. They will know you more
deeply. They will thank you for the opportunity
to know you. They will see you as a person of
character. They will trust you. They can count
on you. They know exactly what is behind and
8. Learn to say NO!
Sometimes you need to say NO! Often it is crucial
to say NO!
Saying NO sets boundaries around you that protects
you from being hurt or venturing into territory
that will be destructive to your heart and soul.
You draw a line. You stop tolerating that which
drains energy and makes you less than YOU. You
refuse to allow the destructive behaviors of
others to destroy you. You build a moat around
the core of your life.
You do this by informing the other person of
what they are doing. You request they stop. If
they don’t stop, you demand they stop.
If they don’t stop, you walk away without
a snide remark, eye-roll or comment. To some
this seems harsh, but saying NO is RESPECTED.
Fear is the basis of mistrust. If you fear that
someone will hurt you and believe you have no
recourse but to endure that hurt, fear will prevail.
How can you trust when you are in fear?
Saying NO sends a message to the other person
that you will not live in fear. This usually
triggers a response of respect from the other
person. After all, if you can protect yourself
and refuse subjugation to that which is destructive,
will not the other person come to trust you and
see you as a person who just might protect him/her
from harm as well?
9. Charge Neutral.
When your significant other expresses something
powerfully, charge neutral.
Most of us are afraid of strong feelings or points
of contention in a relationship. I commonly hear
people respond by defending themselves (to a
perceived attack), explaining themselves, counter-attacking,
shutting down, or walking away. Of course, the
relationship remains stuck in this quagmire of
mistrust and fear. Rather than reacting and having
your feelings flowing all over the place or shutting
down, practice charging neutral.
Communicate calmness, not only in your tone of
voice but also in how you carry your body. Don’t
speak with a charge to your voice. Control your
voice! Say what you must say, state the truth
and do it directly and calmly.
You can do this,
once you master your fears. It will dramatically
change the flow of the relationship. You will
be able to point out something big, without making
a big deal out of it. You will be in control
of you. This not only feels great, but your partner
trusts that you won’t fly or fall apart.
You will experience your personal power. This
makes you very attractive. Don’t people
really trust someone who knows their personal
power and how to use it for the welfare of themselves
and others? Your partner will love the fact that
she can trust you consistently to operate from
your “quiet center,” remain engaged,
not back down and speak the truth with conviction
10. Dig into the dirt.
Relationships of emotional investment, by their
nature, bring trials, tribulations, fears, chaos,
turmoil, change, stretching and growth. They
become the grist from which your life is shaped
Be fearless when faced with turmoil, upset, crisis,
questions, and fears. When the time is right,
seek them out. Move toward the frightening unknown.
Dig into the dirt of your relationship and uncover
the treasures. Do you really TRUST that this
The purpose of your relationship is not to make
you happy. Do you realize this? Happiness may
be an outcome, but your other is given to you
to move you to where you really want to be. Obstacles,
trials and moments of pain are given as lessons
on which you intentionally write the script of
your life individually and together. Embrace
the difficult. Trust that in this embracing you
will find more of your true self.
Trust that you are given the resources and capacity
to face what you and your significant other are
to face. Once you are able to believe and trust
these ultimate purposes, trusting your significant
other will be that much more easy.
The Infidelity Coach, is a respected Marriage
and Family Therapist with over two decades of
clinical experience, study and research. He is
an expert on infidelity and extramarital affairs
and author of “Break Free From the Affair” – a
groundbreaking and best selling e-book offering
hard-hitting strategies for 7 kinds of affairs.
He offers personal coaching and resources for
those facing infidelity that result in marriage
problems and possible divorce.
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