P2 Trust

Trust. Most people do not fully understand the importance of trust. Oh, sure, they know that they want a partner they can “trust.” But what does that word really mean? What all does it encompass? In other words, how does trust develop in the world of online dating? And how can we apply that list to all other areas of life? Here’s one possible list of all the types of trust you might want to develop in your relationship, even if you’ve been married 50 years. It’s never too late for improvement, right?

When we meet someone for the first time that we’ve discovered through online dating, and then as we move forward:

  1. We have a reasonable amount of trust this person is not an axe murderer or other kind of serial killer.
  2. We trust this person is not a bizarre creep who will invade our life in inappropriate ways.
  3. We see evidence this person is similar enough to us in certain ways, so that we are beginning to relax and feel comfortable. Maybe we have mentally checked off a few demographic categories that are important to us. People differ in what they desire, but these categories might include general level of attractiveness, family background, education level, career choices, past relationship history, financial status, religious and/or political affiliation, and more.
  4. We’ll check for common interests, which help to create a bond.
  5. As we have more conversations and learn more, we begin to form trust that they have certain desirable kinds of character. We’ll watch for an absence of lying, animosity, negativity, self-absorption, and so on. We may watch for a positive approach to life, a warm and caring nature, patience, self-control, whatever social graces we deem important such as good listening habits, etc.
  6. We’ll continue to gather observations, as it takes time for a person’s true colors to show. In fact, as we discussed in “P1 Self-Disclosure,” the other person’s willingness to be open and let the true colors show is itself a way of building trust. In other words, the more open and vulnerable the other person is, the more we are inclined to trust. But are those the true colors? Or only a false front? This is where things get very complicated from a psychological perspective. Some of us have never been deceived in a significant way, so we are quick to trust. Some of us have been deceived, and are much more cautious, perhaps even suspicious. But neither one is better than the other. There are pros and cons. Those who are more trusting might be seen in our culture as having a more desirable personality, but they are also more vulnerable to a future deception or a bad decision. Those who are more cautious, and yet open-minded, are actually exhibiting patience and may be capable of greater wisdom. It’s a matter of balance. Don’t let anyone demand trust from you or shame you for being slower to trust. Trust is earned. And what matters is reality. As we used to say in the corporate world, “It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”
  7. As we continue to move forward, we develop more and more trust, more and more evidence of what counselors call psychological safety. Can we be authentic without rejection or retaliation? Can we bare our soul, confess our sins, or reveal our deepest fears and weaknesses, and still be loved? When—or if—you reach this stage, you are finally in the promised land known as emotional intimacy. Now you are beginning to experience the full meaning of trust. Now you are ready to commit. If we are going to flourish in this crazy world, we will need to find a partner who is capable of all of the levels above. And because none of us is perfect, this journey to the promised land might require a little more personal growth. You can’t make someone else grow, but you can focus on your own growth. And you can watch to see if the other person exhibits a commitment to his or her own personal growth. Not in words. Not in promises. But in action. As a wise book says, you can judge the tree by its fruit. Here’s to good fruit in your life!

© 2017 Caryl Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts totaling no more than 10 sentences and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caryl Schlicher and A Bridge To Excellence, and provided that the appropriate URL is given to direct readers to the original content.

2 Essential Principles for Great Relationships

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As a lifelong student of communication, I thought I knew a lot about interpersonal communication. But recently, I have come to better understand two extremely important principles for great relationships.

The principles, stated succinctly, may seem obvious and trite. But my new understanding comes not from hearing the principles, but from more fully realizing how beneficial they are — and how difficult they are!

  1. Know yourself.
  2. Speak only for yourself.

Knowing ourselves is not as easy as we might think. Countless volumes have been written on the subject. If you are familiar with the field of psychology, you already know some of the obstacles. We humans can deceive ourselves, overlook our own faults, or overlook our strengths. We can project our faults onto others. We can be oblivious to our real motives. We can think we’re dealing with fact, when really we are working with our interpretation.

In their book, Alive and Aware: Improving Communication in Relationships, Sherod Miller, Elam W. Nunnally, and Daniel B. Wackman identify 5 categories for knowing ourselves:

  1. Our feelings: calm, bored, glad, confused, eager, angry, proud, sad, etc.
  2. Our actions: Behaviors that may escape our awareness include interrupting others, interrupting ourselves and not finishing our own sentences, saying “like” or “you know” or “um” habitually, chewing our fingernails, reaching for a cigarette, dropping eye contact, changing posture, changing the subject, adopting a certain tone of voice, etc.
  3. Our intentions: Do we intend to encourage? Persuade? Be funny? Avoid? Criticize? Threaten? Disregard? Explore? Share? Help? Clarify?
  4. Our sensations: Are we aware of what we actually see, hear, smell, taste and feel?
  5. Our interpretations: Do we realize how much we interpret what we sense? Here’s an example: Joe’s spouse intends to show love and concern in a comment. But Joe’s past experience with controlling parents leads him to interpret the comment as an attempt to control. Here’s a different example: we see someone walk into a room, stop, and look around. We interpret the behavior as a sign that the person is lost. But that is just our interpretation. We do not really know.

The authors say that we cannot be fully aware of everything at all times. (You’ve no doubt experienced this when you are concentrating on work and you “tune out” background noise.) But they say that healthy individuals are able to be objectively aware of themselves within all five categories on a regular basis, rotating from one area to another as the situation demands.

Healthy individuals are able to self-reflect – access their feelings and understand their own motives, even the “negative ones,” the ones that society frowns upon. Wounded individuals can lose awareness in one or more areas (and we are all wounded to some degree). And so awareness can be a continual challenge for all of us. And, as the saying goes, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” That is one reason why input from others is so valuable.

The second principle, speaking only for ourselves, is also more difficult than we imagine. I just violated the principle in this last sentence. If I were following the principle, I might write, “I believe that speaking only for ourselves is also more difficult that we imagine.” Or, “I don’t know about you, but speaking only for myself is more difficult than I had imagined.” The fact is, I don’t know what your experience is. I am, of course, just trying to make a general statement about a whole population. When we have a lengthy communication that is designed to teach, we tend to drop “I think” or “I believe,” because it becomes repetitive and everyone understands that the whole message is offering generalized truth based upon (we hope) research.

But interpersonal communication within relationships, both at work and at home, benefits from careful adherence to the principle.

One red flag occurs when we start a sentence with “you” rather than “I.” “You should finish this job” is more effective if we say, “I would like you to finish this job.”

The question, “Would you like to go to a movie with me?” might really mean, “I would like you to go to a movie with me.” If that’s what we mean, we should say that, because there could be a significant difference between the two. Say a wife asks the question above. Her husband may feel legitimately confused. Is he merely being asked about his preferences? Or is he being asked to lovingly accommodate his wife’s preferences? Let’s say her meaning is that she would like him to accommodate her desire. So she should say some version of, “I’d like you to go to a movie with me.” Good communication will provide the clarification and help the husband, in this case, meet his wife’s needs for companionship.

Here’s another example: “You’re not listening to me!” is more likely to cause defensiveness and arguments because it is a blaming statement. “I don’t feel listened to right now” is an indisputable fact that you own. If that’s how you feel, then that’s how you feel. No one can tell you how you feel (though some boundary-crossers will try!). So the question becomes, what can the other person do to help you feel more listened to?

Speaking for ourselves with “I statements” helps to bypass arguments and move to solutions.

I hope you can now see that the biggest challenge for many of us is that we were never trained to speak in “I statements.” We’re more likely, in the example above, to say, “You’re not listening to me.”

For many of us, using “I statements” is like learning a foreign language. And so we must train ourselves in this new two-step process:

  1. becoming aware of what we are really thinking, feeling, and wanting, and then
  2. expressing that clearly.

It’s a matter of working hard to change daily habits. The benefits include more harmonious relationships at work and at home, less confusion and conflict, greater productivity, and much more. Perhaps you’d like to run a test, and see how long you can stick with “I-statements” in a given day!

Got a question? Message me through this website.

© 2013 Caryl D. Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts totaling no more than 10 sentences and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Caryl Schlicher and A Bridge To Excellence, and provided that the appropriate URL is given to direct readers to the original content.