3 Reasons You Find It Hard To Trust People

Trust Meter“I don’t know why, but I can’t bring myself to trust people,” the person said to me in a private conversation after a workshop on building trust. “Every time I’ve trusted people in the past I’ve been let down, so now it’s easier and less painful to just rely on myself.”

Maybe you feel similarly, and even if you don’t, you’ve probably experienced broken trust in a past relationship that has caused you to question whether or not it’s worth trusting again. When you find yourself struggling to decide whether or not to trust someone, it’s important to figure out the reasons why.

Here’s three common reasons that hold you back from trusting others:

1. You have a low propensity to trust – Our propensity to trust is based on many factors, chief among them being our personality, early childhood role models and experiences, beliefs and values, culture, self-awareness and emotional maturity. The combination of these factors and experiences shapes how quickly, and how much trust we extend to others. Your experiences may have resulted in you viewing trust as something to be earned, not given, so therefore you withhold trust from others until you’re absolutely sure they deserve it. Even then, you may only extend trust grudgingly or in small amounts. Having a low propensity to trust can hold you back from experiencing true joy and fulfillment in relationships.

2. You have unrealistic expectations – Unrealistic, unspoken, and unclear expectations are a primary cause for low or broken trust in relationships, and the higher the expectations the more likely it is they won’t be met. Trust usually isn’t something people openly talk about or address in relationships until it’s been broken, and by then it’s often too late to salvage the relationship or the breach of trust seems too big to overcome. Clarifying expectations is preventative medicine when it comes to trust. It’s much better to have the awkward or uncomfortable discussion up front about roles, responsibilities, and expectations, than it is to deal with the fallout when either party falls short.

3. Past hurts hold you back – Hurt people, hurt people…those who have been hurt by broken relationships in the past often hurt other people in a dysfunctional form of self-protection. Whether it’s unnecessarily withholding trust (see #1), having unrealistic expectations of others (see #2), being trapped in a victim mentality, lashing out at others, or operating out of low self-esteem, our past experiences with broken trust can easily derail us from developing healthy, high-trust relationships. It’s critical to not let our past hurts dictate our present relationships. As Sue Augustine, author of When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present says, “You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control what happens within you.”

Trust is as vital to healthy relationships as oxygen is to a scuba diver; survival is impossible without it. Whether it’s a naturally low propensity to trust, having unrealistic expectations, or letting our past hurts hold us back from trusting others, we have to move beyond these reasons if we want to have trust-filled relationships in the future. Look for an upcoming post on how to improve your “trust-ability” – the ability to trust others.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments. What other reasons cause you to withhold trust from people?

89 Comments on “3 Reasons You Find It Hard To Trust People

    • You missed trauma exposure. As a senior in high school I had to hide in an undisclosed location for an entire night to avoid being hogtied as part of a scavenger hunt prank that involved dozens of students. All were caught but the gutless school administration punished nobody when expulsions were clearly called for. That hammered into my head the notion that people can get away with whatever they want, and the subsequent conviction that people are only out to hurt others means I will never be able to trust again, period.

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      • Hi David,

        Traumatic experiences have the potential to shape us in profound ways, both negatively and positively. My hope for you and others who protect themselves from future harm by choosing not to trust others, is that somewhere in your journey you will come to a point where you feel safe enough to begin trusting others again.

        Best wishes,

        Randy

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      • Hey Randy thanks for ur comment. It’s not so much that eye don’t trust. Because I have no ISSUSES with keeping it real. Telling how eye feel. Letting others know when they make me feel good or bad. BEIN up front with EVA THING. Don’t miss lead humans. Don’t say nothing I don’t mean or can can’t do. I’m tha BEIN thas upfront at ALLL times know matter who u or. I don’t care if ur JESUS. I don’t lead ppl on and give them false hope or lie to SOOOTHE MAN CONSCIENCE. It others with trust issues. Because if u have to lie and not be real with self then u don’t trust yourself. Thas were trust plays it’s part for me. Because I trust me. It’s u thas not trustworthy.

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  1. Randy,

    In my humble opinion, you are exactly right, both in diagnosis and in recommendations. Those who “cannot trust” are to a great extent the architects of their own misery – greater than they think.
    Charlie

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    • Thank you, Charlie, for your feedback. It means a great deal to me coming from you.

      Not just with trust, but in all areas of our lives, learning how to grow from our life experiences rather than being held back by them is critical to our joy and happiness.

      Take care,

      Randy

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      • Charlie and Randy.. thank you for this message.. I find it hard when the person you are trying to trust again .. is the person who took that trust away… Randy.. you said it all.. and from my personal experience,,, i have been struggling.. and at times.. I don’t know what to do ..

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      • I look at it this way…..I can trust everyone….. for something….eventually we learn what different individuals can be trusted for – good or bad. My trust has been broken many times from serious childhood, marriage abuses/assaults as well as from a person I should have been able to trust in working through those abuses. So I know what I can trust those people for. For a while I decided I’ll never trust again, it hurts too much and became more reclusive. After some time and processing, now, when I meet new people I don’t automatically think I can’t trust them, but I do exercise some caution and not lay my heart on a platter as I used to. I don’t know that I trust at a level that others are able to but I understand why and try to cultivate friendships that are still meaningful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good insights Sandra. Trust isn’t a one size fits all situation. We need to use wisdom and good judgment about who we trust and what we trust them with.

        Thanks for adding to the discussion.

        Randy

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    • That is very true but often times the damage is so great that the inability to trust has gone from a conscious to a subconscious problem. In that case it is not so simple as just deciding to trust. If it was was believe me I would be trusting again in a heartbeat. In those cases it takes therapy and time to rebuild the inner world so someone regains the ability to trust.

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      • Honestly, I think part of the problem is that there are some people who should NOT be trusted for some things. The key is to learn who you can trust for what and to set boundaries or even leave so you are not in harms way of someone who should not be trusted. The challenge is trying to figure out who you can trust. I think a major reason some of us have sustained such damage is because we were in harms way for an extended period of time. Maybe, we were too young to do anything about it. Maybe, we were too scared or too financially dependent to leave an abusive or unfaithful partner. So, now, we have deep physical and/or emotional wounds. I find it a lot easier to trust when I know I can leave immediately if the person places me in harms way.

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  2. Randy- most people would be hard pressed to name 5 people they trust. This may have no bearing on their propensity to trust. Perhaps not enough folks:

    1. Keep their promises
    2. Do what they say they will do
    3. Put integrity before greed.

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    • Good point Barbara! Actions definitely speak louder than words when it comes to building trust.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment,

      Randy

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    • I concur Barbara. Generally, I give people a chance to show me who they are. Once they violate trust it creates barriers, that are hard to overcome. Often those barriers remain because the culprits do not consider it urgent to burden themselves to follow a plan of action to rebuild trust or mend their relationships. They do not heal nor do they heal others.Consequently, they repeat their untrustworthy ways going forward.

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  3. A very good article on why it is so difficult to trust people.I think we are also inhibited by our biases in trusting people.These biases are built by our immediate environment,the people around on whom we depend for our opinion about others.In the process,we become judgemental,as a result we don’t understand the beauty of the process of building up trust with a person.Low propensity to trust is a vital factor,as your rightly mention.Erosion of trust is now a global phenomena,and your article is timely.
    Sanjay Verma
    http://trust-is-the-key-sanjay-verma.blogspot.in/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sanjay – Thank you for your comments. Erosion of trust is a global epidemic and it’s up to each of us to be trustworthy leaders and individuals to help turn the tide. Thank you for taking the time to add to the discussion.

      Randy

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  4. Reblogged this on and commented:
    “You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control what happens within you.” Sue Augustine #leadership

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    • Im not so certain that I agree with this, I mean your right in that you can not always control what happens to you; but this can mess someone up so badly that the feelings inside causes low self of worth, heart battling with mind, not knowing what thoughts to listen too, and which ones to act upon, and so much more.

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      • I agree and I think it’s dangerous to say you can control what happens within you. You can not just decide not to be upset when something bad happens, or decide not to be angry when you are attacked – supressing your emotions in this way is a recipe for disaster.

        Rather than control what is in you, you could just agree with yourself to accept whatever is within you as ok.

        I understand the heart battling mind thing because 99% of the time I feel that I disagree with my emotions – or fail to understand why they are there, or cannot derive logic from them, so they get ignored. But if you ignore them they get louder, so it’s better to deal with them upfront, give them the chance to exist and fade away by themselves, rather than thinking you have to fix them.

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    • Motivational speakers use this kind of jargon – lots of positive comments/sayings that often don’t hold true among real human beings when someone is hurting. They should then be able to make the pain stop, no? Did you know that abuse of a child can mess their mental wires (how they think/process). A child often has no control of that and when left untreated, a child becoming an adult doesn’t have the tools to control what happens within themselves. They go by association – (when this or that happens, it means this or that and body goes into associated response mode.) Some things become severely ingrained to the point of not being able to undo the damage. The same thing when a person has been brainwashed over a long period of time or severely traumatized – e.g. soldiers coming home with severe Post Trauma Stress Disorder. Making blanket statements are not helpful. Sue Augustine was doing that. Of course therapists use this line as well to get clients/patients to believe they can control what happens within. Works for some, not for all.

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  8. I like this article and believe as well that we have to be clear about our expectations. If I have a business relationship with someone trust can be “less comprehensive” than it would be in a personal relationship. Still, there must be common values of what is a decent business behaviour.

    It may sound naive but I have the following rule set for myself which so far worked fine in business:
    1) I trust my instinct and run when it warns me.
    2) If 1) is giving “green light” I insist in establishing clear guidelines
    3) Of course: stick to it.

    Looking forward to reading from you soon.
    Brigitte
    http://brigitte-kobi.com/eblog

    Like

    • Great insights Brigitte. Many people think trust “just happens” in relationships, but the reality is trust is built through the use of specific behaviors. The basic rules you listed for yourself is an example of someone understanding the importance of being intentional in their approach to building trust.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion. I appreciate your insights.

      Randy

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  9. I can speak from personal experience that while your perspective is wise, it’s much harder than simply just moving forward. The past that haunts is very persuasive in it’s own way. Then we have the entire world, it seems, feeding us all these ideals of infidelity, broken relationships and single parenting. Just look at all the rewards our government gives a single mother vs. a married couple. And in the end, thats the goal of any loving relationship. A pinnicle such as marriage. Trust is not only beaten out by the past. We live in a world where only the truly foolish trust. It saddens me that humanity is so far gone. Finding those who are emotionally healthy enough to do these things is getting harder. Finding those who are worthy of these things is even harder. My appologies for the rant. This just hits very close to home.

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    • Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I can see this topic strikes close to home for you.

      Dealing with past hurts and moving forward in a positive manner can be a long and painful journey. I’ve experienced it myself and something that kept me pushing through the pain was the hope and knowledge that things could, and would, get better.

      My best to you,

      Randy

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  10. I profoundly disagree with the thrust of this article, it reads a little condescending in my opinion. It’s not emotionally immature to be cautious about trusting, if trusting has indeed created major problems in the past. These can emotional, spiritual, financial, physical – basically, every aspect of human experience can be impacted on by trusting someone and being let down. The expression ‘once bitten, twice shy’ most have been quoted for a reason and must resonate, otherwise no one would have heard of it before! To refuse to learn from past mistakes is just silly. To extend trust with people you don’t know well is courting trouble. What are their values and ideals, what do they aspire to? How emotionally intelligent are they? Are they very judgemental – are they judging you incorrectly? It’s a mine field, and you should tread carefully, else the past goes on repeating itself. I think it’s important to try to trust, but to give it whole heartedly all the time, no. Beyond basic trust – someone will stop for you at a crossing when the lights are in your favour (not guaranteed everytime) – you should exercise caution. Of course, all of the above and all previous posts are subjective opinion, important not to lose sight of that one – they are not facts. What is a fact, from an evolutionary perspective is that what loosely gets called paranoia these days, would have been a life saver in years gone past. The rustle in the undergrowth – the wind, or maybe a predatory animal about to strike! I know which side of the trust debate I’d rather be one. This analogy works in the modern world also, I think.

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    • Thanks for you comments David. I agree with your point that a person should exercise good judgement and caution when deciding whether or not to trust another person. The three reasons I outlined simply explore common causes why people tend to withhold trust, not whether or not it’s wise to trust another.

      Thanks for taking the time to add your insights,

      Randy

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  13. All the people I trusted are now dead. It sucks living a life where trusting someone is nothing more than leaving an opening for someone to betray you.

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    • Hi Michael, thanks for your comments. It can be risky to trust someone because how the person responds is out of our control. My encouragement to you is to extend trust to those who have demonstrated trustworthiness to you. If the other person has a track record of trustworthiness then you can be more assured they won’t abuse your trust.

      Best regards,

      Randy

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  14. The whole act of earning someone’s trust is crucial to creating mutual respect. If you don’t go through this process, what’s the basis of the interaction between two people? I mean, it’s sane to expect both people show their true selves at a certain point. With the whole masquerade going on, this requires time, effort and doubt. It is a core value to expect from your fellow man/woman to work him/herself towards earnest interaction. Otherwise, why bother? It’s a give and take matter. I don’t promote the idea of opening up to all, or to let others think they have an “issue” with trust. If you notice the other person is throwing himself at you, without expecting you to show your integrity, then that person is not fit. You then either love and teach, or you speak bluntly the truth exercising tough love. The latter is the most effective. Don’t be fooled into believing you should weaken your values just because others haven’t reached that stage yet. Experience is a true teacher; stay true to your gut feeling. Someone has it right in this forum: honest people are very difficult to find, let that not put you off track.

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  15. I’ve always been a person others can trust but It always takes a long time for me to fully trust other people. Every time I need to trust someone else I get let down. Half the time I don’t trust people enough to ask questions about a certain task, because I think there going to not care enough, or lie to me. It’s taken me up to a year sometimes longer to trust someone. I’ve never been one to ask questions. I always end up relying on my self to help me. I’m only 18, and I know I’m going to have to trust people but I just don’t know how.

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    • Hi Brandon,

      The good news is that learning to trust others is a skill you can develop. You’ve already got an idea of where to start – ask questions that will help you assess the person’s competence and character. “Have you done this task before?” “Are there any questions you have?” That will help you gauge how competent the person is to carry out the work. You can also try to get a sense of their character by looking at their past behavior. Do they meet deadlines? Do they keep their promises? What is their reputation with other people?

      This article (https://leadingwithtrust.com/2013/04/28/trust-works-four-keys-to-building-lasting-relationships/) may also be of help to you.

      Take care,

      Randy

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  16. I’ve had issues with trusting people for decades. I don’t trust anyone;parents spouse, children. I know they hide things from me, things I have a right to know, things that impact on my responsibilities. It’s not easier just to trust no-one but I can’t see another way. I’m 62 now and have always had this problem. I would say that years ago I would have trusted my wife to do the right thing and carried out my wishes if I’d ended up on life support or such. Now I don’t trust her with that. (I ride motorcycles and I’m realistic)!
    My inability to trust others would also appear to have cost me friends over the years. I see others all engaging with one another yet few engage with me.
    You say that trusting others can be learned but how do you reconcile that when people are basically dishonest about most things in life that involve trust from others?

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    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for sharing your heart-felt thoughts. A positive fact is that you are aware of your reticence to trust others. Many people aren’t aware of their low propensity to trust and assume the lack of low trust in their relationships is the fault of others.

      A couple thoughts for you to consider:

      1. Assume others have good intentions. The tone of your comments makes me think you assume people are hiding the truth from you, are untrustworthy, etc. Often times our assumptions about others act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because you assume people are being untrustworthy, you’re hyper vigilant to pinpoint any possible behavior that confirms your assumptions.

      2. Start small. Find something small you can trust someone with and see if they prove trustworthy. Then next time trust them with something a little more important and keep repeating that process as long as the person is being trustworthy. You may have a naturally low propensity to trust others and it will help you feel more secure if you start small and then work to bigger things.

      3. Clarify expectations. Sometimes the reason for low trust between people is they have different expectations about the situation at hand.

      4. Finally, don’t be afraid to talk with a professional counselor. Talking to a neutral third party, especially a trained professional, can help you gain insights into the dynamics of your relationships and what you can do to improve them.

      I hope these suggestions were helpful. Thanks for your honest insights.

      Randy

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  17. My lack of trust is destroying my life. My husband said I need help. I question everything he does. My insecurities and jealousy have gotten out of hand.

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    • Hi Emma. If there is any good to experience from this situation it is that you recognize some changes are needed. I encourage you to speak with a professional counselor who could help you through the process of building trust in your relationships.

      Take care,

      Randy

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  18. I have trust issues and I know that I do. I have gotten betrayed by some friends in the past as well. Was it just disappointment? No. I was hurt emotionally and there is still trauma for me when I think about trusting someone. I explain that to people who wanted to be my friends. Then they say that I need to trust them until I see that they are not trustworthy. But how can I possibly do that? Sure, I’ll trust them until I get hurt again and realize, “oh, this person was not trustworthy”? I’m not ready for that. It takes a while for me to actually build trust in someone yet some people expect me to trust them 100% after meeting them a few times for a few months? Should I trust those people? Also, if you were reluctant if you said you’ll do something because you know it is not the right thing then want to stop with that plan but then pressured to do so because of the “you promised” does that mean that you should still do so? I’m so lost on what to do. I do agree on your reasons on why I can’t trust people. At least I do have one very good friend who I can trust absolutely. So is it that I have trust issues or that I have just not met a person who is trustworthy besides that one good friend?

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    • Thanks for your comments.

      Trust in relationships can be a very complex issue. Everyone has a different propensity to trust. Some trust others immediately while others don’t trust until a person has proved himself trustworthy over a period of time.

      If you have a low propensity to trust, it can be helpful to start by trusting someone in low risk situations and then gradually trust them more as they continue to prove themselves trustworthy.

      Take care,

      Randy

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  19. I find it difficult to trust people with anything emotional or personal to me, but I trust them in other ways. For me, it is because there have been many experiences where I have been unable to conceal my suffering and others have perhaps been a little cold about it, which intensifies the suffering. Because I’m used to this and I haven’t had many experiences where it was different, I just find it difficult to let my guard down. I appreciate the wisdom of trust, but it’s a difficult thing to do.

    I personally find that I do eventually trust, but it takes a long time for me to do so, and therefore it takes a long time (years) to bond with new friends on anything more than a superficial level. After that, if the trust is betrayed (I admit to feeling pain and am told I “shouldn’t”, for example, or I’m told to “get over it”) then I find it nigh impossible to re-instil trust in them and they are moved to an emotional distance. This is even despite the fact I can see that it is their insecurities that have been piqued. I don’t know why I should trust that there insecurities will not hurt me again?

    Some positive experiences of trust would be good to help me at least get some believable evidence inside of me that people can be trusted with my emotions, but I have no idea how to do this. I have been in therapy, but my brain creates the loophole of “yeah, but they’re not a normal person. They’ve been trained” so I continue not to trust people who are not actually working in the profession.

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  21. Randy,

    I find it difficult to trust even my family members. Whenever i have to trust dem i am frightened of getting hurt. what should i do?

    Richa.

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  22. Randy,
    I find it difficult to trust my family members. I am 18+. Whenever i hav to trust dem a strange fear holds me back. what may be the reason? I would be grateful if u provide me some advice…
    Richa.

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  24. Randy,

    My personality lends itself to trust people initially. Part of that is due to the fact that I know my own character is that of someone who is trustworthy. I often find myself meeting men whose personalities are such that it takes them time to develop trust for a potential partner. They seem to be constantly evaluating and hence expecting me to be somehow untrustworthy. This often leads to them holding back or changing their stripes. I inevitably get let down because the person who I thought I could trust loses trustworthiness when they seem to not trust me without reason.

    Is it likely that people whom are more trusting are in fact more trustworthy?

    Christi

    Like

    • Hi Christine,

      Thank you for such a thoughtful question.

      The short answer to your question is yes…possibly (how’s that for a definitive answer!?). You’re talking about two different dynamics of trust in a relationship: propensity to trust and trustworthiness.

      Propensity to trust is the degree to which someone is willing to trust (make themselves vulnerable based on positive expectations of another) another person. Trustworthiness is a person’s consistency in using behaviors that engender trust (displaying competence, integrity, care & concern, and dependability). Both propensity to trust and trustworthiness influence each other.

      That’s not to say that someone who has a low propensity to trust is untrustworthy. The two variables can influence each other but also be independent of each other.

      Hope that helps answer your question.

      Randy

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  25. You guys have said it all. I just want to advise that, if we must trust, let’s do it with caution. Trust goes with believing one’s story or one’s capacity in handling a situation. Without believe, it’s hard to trust. Believe comes from thinking out one’s ability to do a thing. While trust comes from the heart. So, think out people’s ability first before you trust them. Believe or critical assessment of one’s ability to do a thing should come before trust. I am by no means claiming absolute analysis of the concept “trust”, I stand to be criticized and be corrected.

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  26. I find myself stressing a lot about who to trust sometimes. It’s terrible to grow up with an emotionally abusive mother, father that was an alcoholic, and brothers that constantly waged war with one another. I relied on myself growing up. I met a friend who trusted me very much. He has extended his hand out to me and offered a home for me too. I live here now and I feel happier than ever before. I just find myself waiting for the day this happiness will get ripped away and I will back to my miserable life before. I don’t fully trust his family and him but everyday I try to understand the concept a little better. As someone, who’s trust was constantly shattered growing up, I don’t know what it means to have a trustful and reliable relationship. I never witness a real trustful relationship, only those that seemed like it in the beginning that turned into a way to manipulate. I hope I can understand what it really means to “trust” someone again. I long for that feeling and understanding.

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    • Hi Melinda. Thanks for your heartfelt comments. You CAN experience high-trust relationships. Not to overstate the obvious, but the key is to use wisdom in deciding in whom you place your trust. I encourage you to read my other articles about the ABCD trust model. The ABCD trust model provides an easy to understand framework of what trustworthiness looks like in a relationship.

      Best wishes,

      Randy

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  27. Belief that people will hurt me has caused my distrust. In high school, I had to endure a smoke bombing that no shrink out there has actually listened to me about regarding how much harm it really did to my sense of safety, and don’t get me started about how the Boston Marathon bombings amplified that about 1,000 times.

    I’ve also been betrayed. The first full-time job I had, the very first holiday party I went to had an open bar at a hotel. I expressed concern that somebody would get drunk and was assured by one of the senior partners that there would be no incidents. There were incidents, and somebody got drunk as a skunk. I never forgave them for that.

    The truth of the matter for me is that while I am looking for a career change, it’s unlikely I’ll get one. Experience has taught me that people are out only to hurt, so even though I should be networking, I refuse to because body armor hasn’t become standard issue and I refuse to go into a crowd anymore without it.

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    • Hi David, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      It sounds like you’ve had some difficult experiences that have shaped your willingness to trust others. It happens to all of us to some degree or another.

      A key question to ask yourself is “How is this belief/attitude/action serving me?” I’ve found it helpful to ask myself that question because it causes me to think critically about whether my current choices/behavior are serving me in a positive way. Perhaps it may help you as well.

      Take care,

      Randy

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  28. I am having such a hard time trying to do this right now, sometimes I’ll be fine and like right now..I try to shake it off and I get so caught up. I’m hot and cold about everything and sometimes it’s rather stay cooped in the house, because I just don’t trust people. I feel like I’m being lied to constantly.

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  29. Trust is dependancy,I wish to be indipendant of others as much as possible.Trust is in vain,meaning that to much dependance is the assumption of trust.Even though I depend on others they have rights to their own indipendance.Indipendance is happyness,freedom,self sufficiancy,ect…I trust in my self.

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  30. Ever heard of the term “Victim Blaming”? This is where the victim of a wrongful act is held partially, or entirely, responsible for the wrong that befell them. It is a stance chosen by people who wish to avoid culpability.

    I’d like people to hold in mind the concept of victim blaming, whilst reading what I am about to say…
    You talk about trust as “vital to healthy relationships” and that “survival is impossible without it”. You also state that people who find it difficult to trust others ought to move beyond this into becoming more trusting in order to have a happy and successful future. Now, I am not going to disagree that trust is, indeed, vitally important within any healthy relationship. I would add that lack of trust is a big killer of relationships.

    However, what I object to is the victim blaming tone of your article. I would assume that you did not intend the article to come across in this manner, but it appears to me that any article is open to a multitude of interpretations, and that when a person chooses to write an article in which it is written…

    “Whether it’s a naturally low propensity to trust, having unrealistic expectations, or letting our past hurts hold us back from trusting others, we have to move beyond these reasons if we want to have trust-filled relationships in the future”…

    There is a risk of coming across as somewhat victim-blaming. Also, your replies to some of the comments here appear to give somewhat conflicting or inaccurate information. For instance, you tell one person who has issues with trust that he can “get a sense of a person’s character by looking at their past behaviour”. All well and good if you know that person’s past. What if you know nothing? Or what if the person lies about their past? Added to this, a person could have been reliable in the past, but has now changed and can no longer be trusted; or vice-versa, a person could have been unreliable in the past, but had a “wake-up call”, and has now changed to become more reliable. Trust is NOT a clear-cut thing, and nor are evaluations of whether a person is “trustworthy” or not…

    The reasons that you provide for people’s inability to trust do ring true, and are well-observed. However, it is where you place emphasis upon the person who finds it hard to trust, and THEIR need to change, that things start to fall apart. What about the understanding that it “takes two to tango”? Is there not a two-way issue of responsibility, and reciprocality, when it comes to trust? Surely the person who cannot be trusted is also in need of change? What about THEIR part in creating situations where lack of trust exists?

    You see, in describing why people find it hard to trust, you emphasize the fact that it is nearly always their personal experiences that lead to inability to trust. Low propensity to trust, and past hurts, are really interconnected. Our experiences of other people and how they interact with us whilst we are growing up have a HUGE influence upon our ability to trust others. The more a person comes across other people who demonstrate that they CANNOT be trusted, the more said person will find it hard to trust. And THIS is why I suggest that your article can appear a little victim-blaming, even if it was not intended to…

    The developing child has very little control over many people with whom it has contact. Kids do not get t choose their family – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins… Kids also have only limited control over who their family has as friends (they may choose their own friends, but not who parents, siblings, etc. have as friends). If a child grows up in a family environment where key figures – especially caregivers – are untrustworthy, then that child has little choice but to become self-sufficient, or fail to thrive. A toddler can NOT up and move house if he or she has an unreliable parent. Instead, the child has to make do, and get by on self-sufficiency, because very early on, the child has discovered that his/her own relative(s) is/are untrustworthy. This is NOT the child’s fault in any way, shape or form. Indeed, the child had NO choice over such an outcome. Even if it may be the case, to openly suggest that “having a low propensity to trust can hold you back from experiencing true joy…” is somewhat cruel. A person who has already been wounded does not need somebody stating the obvious! To add that such people may only give trust “grudgingly” is also a wee bit insensitive and overcritical – OF COURSE such people only give trust after a long period of time, and of getting to know a person. The very fact that they do so at all should be considered a miracle of the resilience and warmth of the human spirit, NOT criticized as “grudging”.

    You are a person whose position, and likely whose training, require that you have a good understanding of interpersonal relations. Thus, I would have expected you to appreciate that ALL humans develop in such a way that early childhood experiences impact upon later life. The way we interact with our earliest caregivers – usually our parents – and the way they respond to us, forms a template by which we gauge, and upon which we model, future relationships. Our early caregivers – our family, and parents especially – form role-models, against whose behaviours and actions we compare those of people we encounter later in life. Put simply, our earliest experiences are ones which colour the way we later see life.

    So, if our earliest experiences of people – people who are supposed to love us and care for us – is that they actually are untrustworthy, and let us down, then it makes total sense to expect that we will continue to be concerned that this is the way all people act. This is particularly so if we continue to have relationships with people who reinforce our belief that people ARE untrustworthy, because they continue to let us down. At the end of the day, humans can only understand that which they have experienced. If you have never experienced something, how do you have any idea what it is like? Thus, people who have been continually let down in life by untrustworthy others WILL naturally default to a position of wariness, and of being slow to trust. They know NO different.

    Surely we ought also to be asking the question WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE SO HARD TO TRUST? It is NOT as simple as saying that fault for lack of trust lies with people who find it hard to trust. Instead, we should stop to consider the fact that some people REALLY DO deserve not to be trusted. People who lie. People who hide their past. People who keep secrets. People who say one thing but do another. Hypocrites. Fakers. People who manipulate others into lying or keeping secrets on their behalf. Bullies. Abusers. Criminals. Con-artists… Each and every one of us knows that such people DO exist, and some of us may even have come across them in life. Sometimes, these people can even be our own FAMILY MEMBERS, SO-CALLED FRIENDS OR ASSOCIATES.

    Liars, fakes, abusers, secrets… all of these are not always as easy to spot as some people might like to think. I grew up in a family where BOTH parents were liars, and kept secrets, and behaved hypocritically. Growing up like this is scary, because it provides you with no role-models upon whom to model healthy relationships. Worse was the fact that, to the outside world, my parents presented a veneer of respectability. You see, untrustworthy people try ever so hard to fool people into thinking they can be trusted! Just look at the way so many people are duped by con-artists. People who wish to fool us into trusting them when actually we ought not to can use any multitude of techniques to do so. This can range from posing as someone they are not, to outright threatening us should we spot that they are lying, and try to reveal the lie. Just look at the way domestic violence perpetrators go endlessly through cycles of abuse – lulling the victim into a false sense of security, lashing out, then apologizing when caught doing something wrong, then going off to do something wrong all over again… And so the cycle repeats! With people who seriously are NOT to be trusted, a similar sort of operation may be seen.

    My point is that untrustworthy people often seek to gain something by kidding others that they can be trusted. Thus, it is in their best interests that their untrustworthiness not be revealed. Such people will go to extraordinary lengths in order to dupe others. So, with this in mind, maybe it is possible for you to be a little more understanding and empathic towards the position of people who find it very hard to trust. Yes, I agree that it benefits them to learn to trust; but the suggestion should not be made in a judgmental way. Such people – like me – already know jus how hurtful and damaging a lack of trust may be. It may well be that some of us desperately want to be able to trust more easily. BUT… there is a fine line between genuine trust, and gullibility. The suggestion that trust should be EARNED is NOT necessarily a bad one. You, yourself, state that people should be evaluated to gauge if they are trustworthy or not – this is implied in the suggestion that a person collects “background information” to see if past behaviour shows trustworthiness. In this sense, it is clear that to some extent we both must agree that trust is NOT an immediate thing – that there are criteria which a person must meet in order to be considered trustworthy.

    With this in mind, might it not be useful to pen an article that looks at what makes a person UNTRUSTWORTHY, and whether such individuals can ever change, in order to become more trustworthy in the future? It would be good to see both sides of the coin discussed.

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    • Hello Ella,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Your message illustrates the depth and complexity that can be involved in regards to trust in a relationship.

      You are correct that my intention was not to engage in victim-blaming. My intention was to point out that the decision to trust another person rests solely with each of us as individuals. It’s my choice…and your choice…to decide who we want to trust. You are also correct in stating that some people are untrustworthy and not deserving of our trust, which is why it’s important for all of us to understand what constitutes trustworthy behavior along with our own propensity to trust.

      As you point out, the factors that influence our propensity to trust are many and complex. It can be extremely difficult to overcome life experiences that have caused us to have a low propensity to trust.

      Regardless of our past life experiences, the decision to trust another is completely under our control. You suggested we ask the question “Why are some people so hard to trust?” The trouble I have with that question is you are shifting the responsibility of YOUR decision to trust to that other person. It’s your decision to trust or not. The other person has the responsibility of being trustworthy if he/she wants to have your trust. I suggest reframing your question to “Is this person trustworthy and worthy of my trust.” If they are, then trust them. If they aren’t, then don’t.

      I hope that clarifies my point of view. Thanks again for your thought-provoking message.

      Randy

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  31. You can trust people to be exactly who they are. Never tell anyone who hasn’t proved themselves anything that’s important. That way you don’t leave openings for problems, unintentional or otherwise.

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  32. It’s easy to say all this but we live in a world where trusting freely and openly can lead to painful unhealthy destructive states within a person especially if they are very sensitive . Many People are manipulative and will use , abuse and get there own needs fulfilled from others especially if they sense vulnerability . So, this article is good in theory but cannot translate into reality . Shane

    Like

    • Hi Shane,

      I respectfully disagree with you. Trust is the glue that holds relationships together. Without it we are forced into a state of self-protection, fear, and cynicism.

      You are correct that some people are manipulative and will take advantage of other people’s trust. Just because those kinds of people exist doesn’t mean you should have an attitude of distrust towards everyone. We need to be wise and discerning in who we trust, which is why it’s important to be self-aware of the reasons why we may find it hard to trust others.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion.

      Randy

      Like

      • Well I would agree with you that a society that can work together for the common good of society is fueled by social trust and more beneficial to everyone. You’ve described the problem but you haven’t made an attempt to describe a solution that takes into consideration the proverbial system or box that we are all in or the dynamics of society. We are dealing with the evolution of human society that carries with it a lot of baggage.

        Have you by chance read any of Philip Zimbardo’s work called The Lucifer Effect? The reason the answer to this problem continues to elude us is because the problem is very difficult. It’s never been solved in the history of civilization hence all the tribalism and wars.

        Kudos to you for being a visionary idealist but I don’t think we’ve ever arrived at the type of idealist visions you’re describing. Perhaps if you could start talking about how to pragmatically get there not just the destination this blog would be more valuable?

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  33. Randy,

    To be honest with you, reasonable trust to have depends greatly on the situation. Trusting family members is different than trusting the sales person at the auto lot than trusting your job etc. etc.

    Here’s the bottom line in most situations people are most concerned with their personal interests in things. When one person’s personal interest conflicts with another person’s (I want the last piece of pizza, I’m still hungry! No, *I* want the last pizza I’m still hungry!) both people are interested in satisfying their hunger. In fact, the urge to satisfy one’s hunger is instinctive and designed to compel us to survive.

    In most situations in society, the same problem exists. The car salesman wants to sell you a car at a higher price to make better commission because he wants his kid to get into a better college to have a better future. I might want a better deal so that my car payment is lower so I can save up more money for my kid to go to a better college.

    I do believe most people are not out to let other people down. I do believe most people don’t revel in other people’s misery but what most people don’t do is consider the side effects of their actions and put the shoe on the other foot. They don’t consider what standards they ought to hold themselves up to for the greater good. Maybe they’re even disillusioned. “I’ve always tried to do the morally good thing and always been taken advantage of.”

    You and many of your readers don’t understand how complex of a social issue this is. Ayn Rand wrote about this extensively and arrived at what we called Objectivism as a result. Objectivism tends to lead to less trust socially in the sense of doing good things because reciprocity is a social convention.

    The real social problem that we have today is that people like you and me have become more educated and aware of sociology and psychology to the point that we no longer run on the default conventions on auto pilot. We actually have trained our minds to think so that we can make conscious choices. We are free to choose. Now that’s an interesting proposition isn’t it?

    Because the next thing is, what is someone who becomes aware of that (advanced sales training) takes advantage of someone who isn’t aware. Is that ethical? Is that moral? It’s not as cut and dry as you think. Black and white thinking is one of the most prominent cognitive biases.

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    • Hi Alan,

      I appreciate your perspectives and you make some good points.

      Trust is a deep, multi-faceted topic and I do appreciate the social complexity involved in how trust is manifested (or not) in relationships.

      You make a critical point about the importance of education and how it empowers you to make conscious choices about who, how, and when you trust others. I advocate an approach of reasoned-trust, not blind trust in any and all circumstances.

      Thanks for adding your insights to this discussion. I appreciate it.

      Randy

      Like

  34. Reading this article is, for me, the first step of trying to trust someone again. Even if the person that never hurt me, I am stuck in that mindset where if I give too much trust into that person, I am only doing it to feel comfort within myself. I been hurt my people (I cannot really give you a number), and now I am just in that mindset of “Anyone can hurt you, so I cannot trust them.” I want to get help about it (I REALLY do), but my question is, How?

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    • Hello Chyna,

      Learning to trust again can be a difficult process. One way to begin is to start trusting people with small things in low-risk situations. As they show themselves trustworthy you can begin to trust them with more serious things.

      Best regards,

      Randy

      Like

  35. I agree. Been hurt in now I’m having a feelings of mistrust again towards my son and that is unfair. This will lead him into his future mistrust ing his loved ones.

    Like

  36. Words can be supportive, or be vapor. We carry in our hearts one aspect of life.Our actions may be a world apart from our heartthoughts. Since we are all going to die, trust is not about others,
    it is about us. To love, or not to love, is the question. Absent trust and respect, love is non-existent.
    It is one thing to make a living with words, it is entirely another to offer help that another person can actually apply in their life today. Some choose fear. I choose love. Talk to me.

    Like

  37. Hello,
    I believe that being a trust-worthy person is one of my best characteristics, and it draws strangers and others to me. I would love to trust everyone but I know that it’s not realistic. It just hurts when people are hypocritical and I do my best to have a forgiven heart or try to trust them with things as general as simple conversation. I’m intelligent enough to use my common sense with people that are spiteful or those that just thieve off of gossip about things shared with them.
    I hope that it will be as simple as to when I’m able to change my environment that I will be surrounded with individuals like myself. I just feel guilty or I wonder if I’m stupid to attempt to be nice to individual whom aren’t able to be nice themselves. I don’t want to change but I wonder if it will make me happier or content to avoid being nice to certain individuals; like my mother, friends that I know need comfort, and/or people that I must appreciate for the things they are helping me with at this time.
    I’m convinced that I’m content, but it’s very lonely trying to stay by myself, praying, and waiting for better too come. Is it true that some can’t be treated with kindness or is kindness, forgiveness, and trust all three different things and how do I separate them. Thank you for your time.

    Like

    • Hi Milinda,

      Thank you for sharing your heartfelt comments.

      Well, kindness, forgiveness, and trust are three distinct factors of our relationships.

      Your overarching question seemed to be whether or not you should continue to be kind to others even though they don’t always return that kindness to you. In that regard, my viewpoint is yes, be kind to others. I believe that is taking the higher road and ultimately you will feel better about yourself knowing that you’ve treated everyone with kindness and respect.

      Having said that, I think we also have to be aware of toxic relationships and make sure we have appropriate boundaries in place to protect us from emotional harm. In some instances that may mean limiting the amount of time you spend with toxic people.

      I hope that is helpful. Best wishes to you.

      Randy

      Like

  38. I struggle with depression and this evening thought a light hearted kids film might help to cheer me up. I chose Toy Story 3. In reality it was a serious subject matter that just used a kids medium. I feel my trust was betrayed and not cheered up at all. Looked like a kitten at first glance but wasn’t. That’s the problem, you never know where you’re at and i’m getting very very tired of this sort of result. All I want to do is bloody relax!

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  39. When a women has been cheated on by 3 out of 4 relationships, is it normal to not wantbto trust again? Especially to the guy that promised to make it right and apologized but went back on his word. I love him but we can not move on without trust. He says I didn’t forgive, but I did. Am I living in the past? I’m so confused. Help…..please!!

    Like

    • Hi Leslie,

      Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Ultimately, a person’s trustworthiness can be judged by their behavior, not their words. I don’t think it’s “living in the past” to forgive someone but withhold trust because the person has proved themself untrustworthy.

      Best wishes,

      Randy

      Like

  40. Pingback: Being Hurt | DANGER! ALL STRUCTURES ARE UNSTABLE

  41. Wow sounds exactly like me I want to trust and love again with my current partner but after a major break up I feel I can’t let go but want too.thank you I need help in realise it now

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  42. You cannot trust anybody! These people who think they can are just leaving themselves open to abuse. People are to be admired and observed at a safe distance. You need to protect yourself. You can be friendly. You should always help other people. Everyone needs a sense of purpose. But trust is something that takes a very long time to establish. And even then your frame of reference is just illusive. Maybe on a superficial level trust might be doled out to an extent, but where do you draw the line between turn the other cheek and a fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes? I’m a survivor. I’m a loner. But I also understand that I have to help other people otherwise I’m here for no reason other than just to exist and consume. This world is temporary. You have to make the best with what you have been given. I choose to help people through my profession and through random charitable and compassionate acts. But I will never leave myself open to being vulnerable to another person by choice. I will always hope for the best but experience teaches me to expect the worse. And life is only a collection of your experiences…

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  43. This article is very helpful to me. I loved the part that explains that trust is a gift that should be extended in any new situation, not something to be earned and worked for. In a new relationship the hope and best possible expectation is that the new situation will be different, better, healthier, and more fulfilling than the last. It’s not at all fair to the new person to make them suffer for the transgressions of the last partner. So, with all that being said, this is what I learned reading this article. I took time to reflect on my relationship and how I was making my current partner work for trust, when in fact, he’s done nothing to deserve that treatment. To say the least, no matter what, we can’t control our partners, we can’t make them never hurt us. We can only show up to love them and let them love us in return. If things don’t work out, they just don’t. Thanks for the help, I really needed it.

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  44. Life is a series of experiences. You need to learn from your experience. I look at myself and analyze what I’ve done wrong to let this happen. I did it to myself! I let them shmooze me! I made myself vulnerable! What exacerbates the situation is money. If people find out you have it they will tell you what they think you want to hear. Whether it’s friendships, business relationships, or more personal relationships money skews peoples integrity. And if you don’t have money then some other “useful manipulation” soon rears it’s ugly head. I’ve learned not to extend myself too far. It’s like going to a casino with $1000.00 and knowing that you’re probably going to lose it anyway. So you just try to enjoy it for what it’s worth and not expect anything.
    I’ve worked very hard in my life and have achieved great financial success. People around me treat me like I’m something special. I’m still the same giving caring regular guy I’ve always been. I know when people are blowing smoke at me. I do great things for other people. I have the means and feel a responsibility to help other people. Some don’t even realize what I do. I will always have a sense of purpose. I will always have a clear conscience. But I’ve learned numerous different times in a plethora of situations that I can’t dangle my vulnerabilities in front of people. I value my security and freedom. As I’ve stated previously, “Where do you draw the line between turn the other cheek and a fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes?”
    Well I’ve run out of cheeks and if I don’t learn from my own mistakes then I’m bound to repeat them.

    Like

    • Thanks for adding that perspective Gregory. Trusting others isn’t an all or nothing proposition. We don’t give people blanket trust in our lives (well, very few people). We need to be smart about the trust we extend based on the person’s track record of trustworthiness and the dynamics of the particular situation.

      Take care,

      Randy

      Like

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