Pursue What Matters
Episode 110: Are You Making These Trust Mistakes?
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Most of us agree that trust matters a lot, right? So why is it so darn hard to cultivate trust in love and work?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:07
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So today, we’re talking about trust. And honestly, we could probably talk about trust just about every week, because it is such a big issue for us in life, right? It’s bigger than just our relationships at home. It’s bigger than just our relationships at work. This is a topic for the ages, and it is a prickly pear.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:01
So I think most of us would agree, right? That we all understand that trust is important. It’s pretty intuitive, that in order to have good relationships and strong connections with others, we need to trust them. But why is it so difficult? Then? Why do we struggle with trust both at home and at work? You know, I work with a lot of leaders. And when we talk about trust when this issue comes up, the first thing you know, if I asked them a question about a concern related to trust, almost automatically, people come up with Oh, I trust them. But when you get into the details, trust is a much more challenging issue. And so today, I want to talk about two common mistakes that I see and that we make as humans when it comes to trust, and how understanding these mistakes can help you to not make them so that you can have more effective relationships, connection, and of course, trust with others.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:06
And so before we quickly dismiss, like, Oh, of course, I trust people at home, or of course I trust people at work. Let’s dig into the details a little bit more. And so right, there are some ways that we get trust wrong. And today, I really want to invite you to think about trust in a new way in a more nuanced way, in a more specific way. And then next week, on the podcast, I’m going to have an excellent trust tool to really help you wrap your head around trust, and get very specific about how you can strengthen trust both at home and work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:45
So of course, every day, every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead. I try to do that in one of three areas, leading with clarity, leading with curiosity, and leading and building a community. And so today with a podcast, as we think about these trust mistakes, I really want to help you in the areas of clarity and curiosity. So the big one is curiosity, though, for you to really look at your beliefs around trust, and look at how you’re approaching trust with others. And then next week, as I bring a great trust tool to you, we’re really going to be focusing on leading and building a community, because everything that I’ll be sharing with you next week is very actionable. And it’s designed to help strengthen the trust in your teams. So that’s what we’re going to be paying attention to today.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:46
So first of all, the way that we think about trust can leave us stumbling, right? And we often make a couple of key mistakes, when it comes to how we think about trust. And this can really cause us trouble when it comes to actually connecting in relationships. And why does this matter? So when we don’t trust, we are less successful when we don’t trust we are in survival mode, when we don’t trust we have a hard time thriving, because instead of being able to focus on the challenges of life or the tasks at hand, right, we are actually scanning the horizon. We are looking over our shoulders, we are wondering, can I trust this person? Am I safe here? And so in a very real way, trust lays the foundation, as you know, in addition to psychological safety, for success, for success at work for a stronger culture for better relationships at home, I mean it is foundational.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:53
And so let’s take a look at these two mistakes. And again, these are the mistakes that I see across the board. I see these with clinical clients, but I really see them a lot with leadership clients. So leadership teams, right? Like, we all want to hold this belief that, hey, we’re close, we’re like a family, we have so much trust. But again, when we get into the details, there can be lack of trust in areas. And if we fall prey to these two mistakes, we fail to see the whole picture. And we fail to be effective problem solver so that we can address the whole picture. So that’s why it really is important.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:37
So let’s start with mistake one, we believe that trust is all or nothing, okay? So this idea that if I trust you in one area, I should trust you, in every area, that I should trust you with everything, that trust is really all or nothing. But really, that is not very realistic. So an example that I just love. It was shared with me many years ago by one of my clinical supervisors. And he used this example relative to folks with eating concerns, right. So in my other life, I’m an eating disorder specialist. And so I work with lots of folks with eating concerns. And so one of the things that he used to say, and this is very typical, for folks with eating concerns is that they are tender hearts, they’re so warm, they’re so loving, and they’re very caring individuals, towards others. But of course, if someone has an eating concern, or an eating disorder, they really struggle in their relationship with food, right. So whether that’s with binge eating behaviors, or stick, restricting behaviors, purging behaviors, or you know, all all kinds of all of those wrapped in together. And so this clinical director used to say, I would totally trust most people I know, with an eating disorder to babysit my children, right. So now, of course, we know he wouldn’t do that because of professional boundaries. But he’s like, I feel so comfortable with them coming into my home, and babysitting my children, they’re wonderful, they would be so good. But I would not trust them with my pantry. I would not trust them to eat appropriately, if they came over to my house. And that might sound like kind of a harsh example. But I actually think it is so helpful, and so clarifying, for us to recognize that trust is contextual. And so that is really the key that we want to pay attention to with trust.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:48
So you know, we need trust to be contextual, for the health of our relationships, it’s really, really important. And so you know, when we think about trust being all or nothing, the reality is that no one is all good, or all bad, right? Like we all make mistakes, we all stumble, we mostly tend to have good intention. But that’s not always true. And so if we make the mistake of believing that trust is all or nothing, you know, we could really set ourselves up, to get hurt, to get undermined, to be let down. And so right, the reality that no one is all good or all bad, is one of the reasons why contextual trust is so incredibly important because it helps us to utilize context, and nuance and different situational factors to establish and cultivate trust over time. So think about that. What is the context? What is what are the situational factors, right, there are some people who you can really count on to be great communicators, unless they’re under a ton of stress, and that it’s like, watch out, they might lash out, they might be really hostile. And so I think if we just think about this and break it down a little bit, we all kind of recognize that trust is contextual. And that is actually really important. And so when we think about this idea, though, of all or nothing trust, the question that this asks that the question that all or nothing trust asks is, can I trust you? Right, this is a big blanket question. It is a huge question. And what I would say is, it’s not necessarily a good thing, if you were to answer yes, to this question with some or even many of the people, you know, because that’s just a really big blanket question.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:51
So do I perhaps sound cynical? You know, I hope not. Hopefully, I just sound realistic. And that’s really you know, what I I try to I try to live in reality, right, like not overly optimistic, not overly pessimistic or cynical. So I really do try to be realistic. But what’s also true is I have seen a lot of individuals in so many settings where they are too trusting, and then they really get burned. And also, it’s just, you know, when we sometimes answering this question of, can I trust you with? Yes, sometimes it feels good, there’s a relief, because it’s like, oh, okay, you know what, you’re a safe person that can help us to relax. But, right, like, no one is all good or all bad. And so sometimes, right, like that initial relief, may set you up for problems down the road, because you’re actually not managing your own emotions, you’re not, you’re not actually taking responsibility for paying attention to life around you. And so even though it can feel really good to be able to answer yes, to this question of, can I trust you?
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:03
What I would say is, that’s not a really wise approach. And it can really be a recipe for, for a lot of pain and a lot of heartache. And so, you know, let’s just kind of think about how this might show up at work or in other situations. So if you may feel like you need to answer Yes, right. And this, this kind of goes back to what I experienced with a lot of leaders, when we bring up these trust issues, people are so quick to say, Oh, I trust them. But when we get into the weeds, when we get into the details, there actually is a lack of trust. And what I want to say is, that’s okay to acknowledge, because trust is contextual, it doesn’t mean if you don’t trust the other person in this situation, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, it doesn’t mean they have ill intent, it just means in this area, I don’t trust them. And there could be lots of very valid reasons why you don’t trust them. So you know, when we feel this pressure to answer, yes, I trust this person in all, in all things, you know, that pressure often comes because we recognize that the other person is good, we recognize that they have great values, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:21
So this idea of like, hey, Drew is a really good guy. And so I should, I should trust him. And then if you have any uncertainty, or if you have any hesitation, you might feel guilty, about about that hesitation. And you may believe that there’s something wrong with you. Or that if you don’t give 100% trust to this other person, that you somehow are the problem. And this is such a problem for us, because it takes us away from trusting ourselves. So you know, these moments of hesitation, these small cues that give us pause, are something we need to pay attention to, they are there for a reason. And again, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong, quote, unquote, with Drew or whomever the individual is, it might just mean you haven’t had enough experience of this individual in this situation, to know if you actually can trust him or her. Okay, so sometimes it’s because you have a lack of information, sometimes it’s a lack of experience, sometimes it’s, hey, we’re still trying to get to know each other in this situation. And so when we adopt this all or nothing, expectation around trust, it really puts too much pressure, both on us to be trusting and sometimes dismiss our own inner voice. And it puts too much pressure on others. Because then right, like they run the risk of being on a pedestal and what happens if they make a mistake, or what happens if they stumble, or what happens if, you know they they’re not quite as successful as you were hoping they would be on a project, right? Like they can, they can fall off of that pedestal, and it can be hard to earn your trust back. And so all or nothing, trust is not a great plan for successful relationships, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:18
Because if others fail to live up to our expect expectations, they’re in big trouble. If we force ourselves to trust someone, when in actuality we don’t, or shouldn’t trust them, it really undermines our own ability to trust ourselves. So that’s what we really want to pay attention to. So before we move on, do not get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of trust. But what I’m a huge fan of and what I think is much more effective is what I call contextual trust. And so when we think about this first mistake of all or nothing trust the solution or the alternative is contextual trust. Okay. And so you know contextual trust is all about the specific context, the specific situation, right? And so where all or nothing trust asks, Can I trust you contextual trust asks, Can I trust you with this? So can I trust you with this vulnerability? Can I trust you with this struggle? Can I trust you with this task? Right? So you can see with contextual trust, it’s much more specific. It’s much more directed. And it really helps you to better answer this question around trust. So you know, when we ask these questions of, you know, can I trust you with this? These are incredibly vulnerable moments. And they can also be very practical moments, right? When when we ask, Can I trust you to get the job done? Are you going to hold up the project? Can the team count on you to do your part? So these are questions we wonder. And we ask, maybe we ask in our head, maybe we ask in team meetings, all the time. And when you think about these questions, although they are very practical, and they’re focused on the work we do every day, they are still vulnerable.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:25
Okay, so think about our work teams. And the research really indicates that increasingly, we are all working on teams, it’s how the work of the world gets done at this point. And so in a very real way, your livelihood may depend on the quality of the work of your team members. And actually, it usually does. And so this is another reason why trust is such a big deal at work, and why these practical questions are also vulnerable, right? Can I count on you? And so you know, what I would recommend, right? As we think about this alternative to all or nothing trust being contextual trust, my invitation to you is that in a very real way, each of us needs to be doing a trust calculus with those we are in relationships with. And I’m not saying this in a cynical way, or in a way that that signals lack of trust, necessarily. But the question each of us need to be asking for our own care for our own well being for our own success, is, can I trust you with this, and these can be very important conversations for teams to have for couples to have for families to have. So it is unreasonable to assume that you can trust everyone you care about with the things that concern you. Right? I mean, I think about my own life, I have so many loving, wonderful people, I feel like I really prioritize connection. But even with all of those people who I’m even very, very close to, I can’t trust all of them in every area of my life. And that’s just such an unreasonable assumption.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:13
So you know, think about it for yourself, can you be everything to everyone? And if you think you can, I have got another another story for you. Because we can’t like you can’t be everything to everyone, nor can others. Be that for you. So don’t expect that you can fully trust everyone in every area of your life. So some of the questions to look at include, who can you trust with your failures, right? If you were to go with them with Oh, my goodness, this just totally fell apart. You could trust that they could love you, you could trust that they could help you pick yourself up, that they’re not going to judge you that they’re not going to shame you that they’re not going to use that vulnerable moment that failure against you, right. And there may be some people in your life that it’s like, whoa, I’m not going to go to that person to talk about these failures, because I don’t I don’t know that. I don’t know that they wouldn’t use it against me, right.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:22
So who can you trust to encourage you, right? Do you have a cheerleader in your life? Who can you trust to help you challenge your thinking, right to give you the really important feedback that you need, but sometimes you don’t want right when you don’t want the when you don’t want the honest feedback, you usually go to your cheerleader. But when we think about what you need and what’s really going to help you facilitate your growth, right, we there’s a place for the cheerleader, but there’s also a place for the challenger, the individual that helps you to see things more clearly. So who can you trust to call bs On your favorite excuses. So these all are different, different roles, different responsibilities. And, you know, when I think about these questions, I have different people for all of these questions. Now, there’s some overlap, of course. But you know, I know that when I need a cheerleader, I can call my mom, I know when I need a shoulder to cry on, I can call one of my girlfriends, I know, when I need someone to help me get out of my crazy mind, I can call on my guy, friend, right. And so again, it’s not that there isn’t overlap in these relationships, right. But by having more than one person for various kinds of support and trust, your relationships are actually strengthened, you get the support you need, and your loved ones don’t feel weighed down by your needs, right? And then you’re really just freed up to connect, and it can be more of a give and take relationship. And all of this, everything that I’ve just said, Absolutely applies at work, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:04
So you’ve got to learn to rely on more than one person, you can’t have favorites, because your favorite may not have the skills, you need to address work tasks, or projects, and just having favorites is very undermining anyway. So we don’t want that. But who can you go to at work to really give you good constructive feedback on the quality of your work? Who can you go to at work to do some reality testing, right? Like, did I did I read that situation right? Because this is how I read it. So who can you go to for perspective, and it shouldn’t all be the same person.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:42
So that’s the first mistake. And the first solution for it. Right? So the first mistake Is all or nothing, thinking when it comes to trust, right? So you tend to believe that trust is all or nothing? And then of course, the solution or the alternative? Is contextual trust. So instead of asking, Can I trust you? The question is, can I trust you with this, okay, recognizing that trust is contextual and specific.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:13
So now let’s talk about the second mistake that we often make when it comes to trust and how this shows up at home and works.So we believe that trust is earned in large moments, and by big gestures, okay. And that is a belief that many of us hold. So again, this mistake puts too much pressure on a relationship to perform, right? So what if I can’t walk through fire for you? What if I can’t save you from a speeding train? Does this mean that my opportunity for building trust with you is dashed? Right? So this just is not a very realistic view of trust or relationships, it’s so pressure filled. And of course, like I said before, none of us are perfect, right? We all make mistakes. And you know, if we’re honest, we are all of us always trying to figure things out. And if someone fails to show up in a big way, it would be so sad to cast them out. Right. And so believing that trust is earned in large moments and by big gestures is really problematic. And often, the result of that is that we don’t build strong connections, or we break connections off, because we deem that someone has failed to show up for us. And so we end up isolated, we end up with conflicted relationships, we end up with drama in our relationships, and we do not want drama. So what’s the alternative?
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:51
So let’s think about a solution and an alternative to believing that trust is earned in large moments. And this is knowing and understanding that trust is actually built in small moments, tiny, tiny moments. So the most effective relationships build trust, step by step, moment by moment, with small gestures and in specific contexts. So you know, dr. john Gottman is a great researcher on couples, I’ve talked about him before. His research has taught us so much about communication and trust, in relationships. And all of this applies at home and at work. But he talks about sliding door moments. And this comes from a movie by the same title. And basically, when he thinks about trust, and what his research really points us to, is that we have these sliding door moments or these small opportunities in the course of our day in the course of our weeks in the course of our years, to either build trust or to erode trust and so on. Are we taking these small opportunities to build trust? Or are we missing them? So a small sliding door moment could be closing the loop on a communication, as a small sliding door moment, might be acknowledging that a team member is upset about a decision. Right as a sliding door moment where we erode trust, could be dismissing a concern. It could be seeing Yeah, I saw that you were upset, but then not having a willingness to actually talk about it and talk about why the person is upset. And so these small moments every day, really do become sliding door moments where we either build or erode trust.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:56
And so what Gottman teaches is that these missed opportunities most often are not the result of nefarious intent, right where someone’s out to get us they feel hostile toward it towards us, or they’re looking to reject us. Although it can often feel like that, even if we’ve had, you know, especially if we’ve had experiences where we felt rejected or abandoned before. But most often, these sliding door moments, these missed opportunities are actually due to mindlessness. Now, listen up, because this is actually really important. And it happens for most of us a lot, unfortunately.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:34
So we don’t see the other person maybe because we’re on our phones, or we’re on our screens. We’re too busy in quotes, right? We don’t really listen, when someone’s speaking to us. We don’t follow through on things that we said we would, or we fail to understand why something matters to the other individual. So right, whether that’s in a team meeting, or whether that’s in a relationship at home, we don’t take concern seriously, or we don’t take perspectives or opinion seriously, due to that mindlessness, or in attention. And I would say this mindlessness, this high distractibility that’s living on our phones and screens. It is the it is a modern day plague. Right, I’m not talking about COVID here, but mindlessness, lack of presence will take us down, they it seriously runs the risk of taking down our relationships and our sense of connection. And so we really need to be wary of it, we really need to take responsibility for our behaviors and be present show up for people get rid of distractions.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:51
So you know, Brene Brown calls these moments, marble jar moments. And this comes from a story from her daughter when she was in elementary school. And in her classroom, they had a big marble jar. And throughout the day, when the students were helpful for helpful to one another, maybe they picked up a piece of paper that dropped on the floor, they helped a classmate with a with a reading assignment, or they were kind, they were able to add marbles to the marble jar. And then of course, if they were unkind, if they were rude if they were unhelpful, then they were not able to add marbles, to the marble jar and you know it, it stayed pretty empty. And so this this concept is very similar to John Gottman, Gottman’s sliding door moments. And it’s this idea that we have the power to strengthen our relationships, and our trust, in every moment of every day, these small moments, these, these small awarenesses of others, are so incredibly important. And so nothing is a lost cause no relationship is a lost cause. And so don’t don’t give up on building trust, right, like even if there has been a challenge. And so that’s really what we want to pay attention to for overcoming the second mistake, which is that we believe trust is earned in large moments and by grand gestures. And really we want to pay attention to the ways that trust is built in small moments. And you know, what I would say just to wrap up, is when it comes to trust, it’s so easy for us to just be so highly focused on the other person’s behavior. And of course, you need to have some awareness about that. So that you can make wise decisions for yourself.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:47
But as you think about overcoming these two mistakes or catching yourself when you might fall for them, really focus on your behavior focus on how can I be trustworthy? How am I being considerate and aware and communicating with others. So how can you build trust? And I think what you can often find is that trust is very reciprocal. So as we make an effort, even when that feels challenging, with someone that we do have some trust issues with, right, it can create a virtuous cycle where there is some reciprocation in trust over time. And so I hope that this is helpful for you. And I hope that you will absolutely stay tuned for next week’s podcast because with the podcast next week, I’m going to break down trust building into behavioral, actionable, and specific skills that you and those you love, and lead can really utilize for more trust, and more success.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:52
So I hope you’ll join me then. It’s really great. It’s a really, really good tool to help get very specific about how to build trust. And so make sure you head on over to my website to check out the show notes. With all the great resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/trustmistakes. So one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/trustmistakes. And I hope that you also would be willing to take a minute and give me a review. Tell me what you think about the podcast. That is a great way for more people to find the podcast. And of course, my hope with that is so that I can help more people really pursue what matters and I’d love to hear what you want to hear about. I’m social. I’m on Instagram at @dr.melissasmith. And so I would love to hear your thoughts and your recommendations. So with that, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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