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.

Avoiding Invalidation Part 1

Who wouldn’t want a happy family? The good news is there are small, concrete changes we can all make to improve our relationships. For one thing, we can replace invalidation with empathy.

What is “invalidation”? This series helps you to recognize invalidation so that you can protect yourself from it, and make sure you aren’t accidentally invalidating others.

When people invalidate you, it doesn’t feel good. The minor examples are so common in our society that you might not fully realize the problem. At other times, you’re likely to feel let down, frustrated, or even angry because of the other person’s comment. The more severe kinds of invalidation can eventually cause emotional and psychological damage.

While invalidation takes many forms, all the examples convey some kind of non-acceptance or criticism. When someone invalidates you, you hear a subtle—or not-so-subtle—message that you don’t have a right to your feelings, or that somehow your perceptions are wrong, or that you shouldn’t have expressed your feelings.

One of the mildest categories of invalidating remarks is called “minimizing feelings.” Examples include:

  • “You must be kidding!”
  • “It can’t be that bad.”
  • “You’re just tired.”
  • “Well, yeah, nothing’s perfect.”

Do you see how these are invalidating remarks? The first three suggest you can’t possibly be right. The third one suggests that your upset feelings are merely due to fatigue, which means you don’t really have a legitimate concern.

The fourth one suggests the only reason you’re complaining is because you were expecting perfection—which of course is not a good idea. So do you see how this comment makes YOU the problem? It implies your expectations are the only problem. Most likely, you were trying to say you felt troubled by some particular negative event or behavior. Perfection was not the issue.

I still remember using the “You’re just tired” comment when my pre-school-aged daughters were fussy and I knew nap time was approaching. I didn’t realize I was invalidating their upset feelings. I don’t recall now why they were upset, but I’m sure there was a logical reason. Their need for a nap made them more prone to tears at those times—we all can tend to react more strongly when we’re tired—but their feelings were still legitimate.

Whenever we learn about things we could have done better in the past, it does us no good to stay stuck in feeling bad. What’s important is to improve our present and future, and apologize and make amends when that’s appropriate.

Instead of invalidating others, we can choose to show understanding and simply paraphrase back to the other person what he/she said with a sympathetic voice. One useful beginning is to say “It sounds like you . . . .”

Here are examples: “It sounds like you’re saying that hurt your feelings.” Or: “It sounds like you’re feeling pretty upset about that.”

The goal of empathy is to show you listened, show you understand the meaning and the emotion, and invite the other person to open up and say more. Empathy is not the same as agreement.

There’s more to say about how to be empathetic, and I need 3-4 hours to teach people how to do it, but that gives you a brief glimpse of what empathy looks like.

Next time we’ll move on to a different category of invalidation.

© 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.