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.

P1 Self-Disclosure

Maybe you’ve experienced the joy of online dating. (Yes, there’s a bit of humorous sarcasm there.)

Here’s the thing: if we know what to look for, we can gather valuable insights from these initial written exchanges. Many of the dynamics found in all other relationships are quickly visible right there, under the microscope, so to speak.

So get ready for some fascinating observations and lessons right from the pages of dating sites, to help you do better at work, in your marriage, with friends, and yes, in dating.

Let’s begin by talking about the purpose of these sites. Can we agree the purpose is to form relationships? Now, someone may desire only a casual relationship with “no strings attached.” But it’s still a relationship.

So to form a relationship, you need to learn about other people. That’s the whole point of the site. Would you be safe with this person, financially, physically, and so on? And beyond that, would you benefit from spending time with this person?

To assess that, you need information. So you look at the profile — pictures, multi-choice answers to questions, and “short essay” responses.

You notice that some people don’t offer you much information. Maybe only one picture. Maybe three words in the short-essay portion. Maybe under “Profession” they write,

“I have one.”

Smart-aleck? Secretive for good reason? (Perhaps this person works for the C.I.A.?) Ashamed of his or her career development or lack thereof? Just a scammer searching for victims? Who can say, without more information?

But this common phenomenon supplies our first principle: Self-disclosure helps others to trust you. When they learn about you, they can decide if they trust you.

Also, self-disclosure provides possible evidence of YOUR trusting nature – which means that YOU can trust THEM, which means you trust people in general and thus can be reasonably open as a person.

It’s a reciprocal thing. Sometimes it’s a vicious circle. If I meet you and it’s obvious you don’t trust me with any information, I feel shut out. I wonder what you’re so afraid of. I wonder what you’re hiding. And I’m thus less likely to trust YOU.

The sad thing is, some people have been hurt and have learned to shut down for the purpose of self-preservation. They can end up creating what we call a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” It works like this:

Their trust in others has been damaged. They then withdraw into a protective cocoon. And they behave in ways that shut people out and turn them off, creating more of the pain and disappointment that they already feel.

If you expect something bad, you might create something bad.

How can people stop this self-destructive cycle? Here are some ideas that some people find helpful:

  1. They think about the original source of the mistrust and talk to someone about healing that.
  2. They begin to study ways of changing habits. They learn better ways to approach conversations, for example.
  3. They go to places where they can meet new people and practice their new conversational skills.
  4. They drop any excessive concern about making a mistake. They try not to beat up on themselves. They monitor negative self-talk and try to shut it down.
  5. If they feel any kind of embarrassment that causes them to withhold information, they consider whether that feature is something they want to change. For example, if they’re ashamed of their job, would they consider finding a new career? What are the steps for making that happen? Or on the other hand, they may want to rethink their beliefs, and move to self-acceptance, rather than creating change.

Those who actually are on a dating site might want to evaluate how they are handling information, now that we know how others could possibly react.

But does all this mean you should be unwise and share specific identifying information on a dating website? No, definitely not. Does all this mean you should open up when meeting people socially and share all your deepest secrets right away, and go on and on talking about yourself? No, of course not. There is a principle known as “the happy medium.” No extremes, just somewhere in the happy middle. And each of us can decide for ourselves what feels right at a given time in a given situation. We will vary our level of openness based upon what we sense, and perhaps decide to reveal more as time goes by. Of course everyone understands that a work situation is different from a social situation, and they are both very different from a marriage.

It’s safe to say that many marriages have been destroyed by trust issues and a lack of openness, and that’s one more reason why this is such a concern.

Let’s get together again, when we look at another principle arising from the web pages of online dating.

© 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.