Why overcome trust issues and trust others when many people give us plenty of reasons not to?
In particular, people with low self-esteem distrust others and have difficulty placing their trust in them.
However, the benefits of trusting others far outweigh the drawbacks.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why overcome trust issues? Introduction
- 2 The importance of trusting others
- 3 Why overcome trust issues? Isn't there a risk in trusting others?
- 4 Making good use of trust: Should we then always trust others?
- 5 How to deal with a betrayal of trust
- 6 The individual and collective benefits of mutual trust | Why overcome trust issues?
- 7 The prisoner's dilemma
- 8 What kind of society would you rather live in?
- 9 Why overcome trust issues? Conclusion
Why overcome trust issues? Introduction
Generally, distrust feeds off our weaknesses. And yet, it is essential to know that trust is beautiful and as good for individuals as it is for human groups.
Often, people who lack self-confidence have problems trusting others.
But why do we tend to distrust others when we have self-esteem problems?
This article will explain why it is necessary to stop distrusting others and try trusting them instead.
The importance of trusting others
Trust can be defined in several ways:
- We expect that our desire to collaborate will be satisfied and that others will not exploit our vulnerabilities.
- It is also a form of intuition or sometimes a carefully made decision. Often it is a hope, much more than a certainty.
- Trust is also a form of optimism centered on social relations. Like optimism, it is not blindness in the face of difficulties but tranquility when there are no apparent problems.
Even if optimism does not necessarily change the outcome of real-life situations, it is vital to understand that trusting others can do so.
In fact, granting your trust to someone can encourage them to evolve favorably. It also contributes to making society more humane.
Of course, the sources of our ability to trust are in our past. The two major factors appear to be:
- Having had parents or relatives on whom you could not rely, and
- Having experienced painful betrayals after having invested a lot.
In addition, many factors are related to the present that make up a rather complex mix.
First of all, the reasons for trusting can be opposite:
- It is possible to trust out of personal fragility (i.e., low self-esteem) because we tend to idealize others or put ourselves in a position of weakness or dependence on them.
- We can also trust because we feel strong enough to bear or repair a possible betrayal. The phrase "I'm giving him a chance" is used, which is often said by people with good self-esteem.
Therefore, when we trust someone else, it will depend on our trust in ourselves and our self-esteem needs.
Other elements will also determine whether or not you can or want to trust others:
A study in the field of neurobiology has shown that it was possible to double the feeling of trust toward the other person by having volunteers inhale an oxytocin-based spray.
Oxytocin is a hormone that causes maternal behavior and also facilitates sexual bonding.
But is it really possible to chemically manipulate the feeling of trust? This could pose significant ethical problems!
Indeed, what would happen if salespeople, or politicians, secretly used oxytocin to convince their audience?
Our ability to trust is very much influenced by our emotional life. Generally, it is facilitated by positive emotions and hindered by negative emotions.
When we frequently feel sadness, anger, or worry, this can lead to a systematic distrust of others, which is based on the following:
- Fear: this is the case of socially phobic patients;
- Pessimism: it is the case of those who are depressed; or
- The projection of one's own bad thoughts and negative visions of humanity: this is the case of grumpy or angry people who are always resentful.
All these sufferings will disrupt the proper functioning of human groups, which heavily rely on mutual trust in their family, professional or social life.
In contrast, frequent positive emotions greatly facilitate the quality of exchanges.
- Dunn & Schweitzer, Feeling and Believing: The Influence of Emotion on Trust, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005
- Hertel, et al., Mood effects on cooperation in small groups: Does positive mood simply lead to more cooperation?, Cognition and Emotion, 2000
The inability to trust is a mental health issue
In some cases, it is possible to suffer an inability to trust, which falls under a psychiatric disorder.
This is the case of paranoids who are convinced that nobody deserves absolute and permanent trust, not even those close to them.
For paranoid individuals, everyone either:
- has committed a betrayal in the past, or
- is about to or is in the process of betraying, or
- will commit a betrayal in the future.
Another case concerns those who have lost their human relations and are always disappointed by others.
Generally, these are people who:
- have suffered betrayals or deficiencies, or
- have parents who have raised them in an environment of distrust.
Why overcome trust issues? Isn't there a risk in trusting others?
Naturally, trusting others entails a risk!
However, we should realize that not trusting others also comes with risks.
Indeed, the dangers of not trusting others may be less visible and less immediate than those of trusting others; nevertheless, they are very real.
Not trusting means spending a lot of energy being suspicious, watching, observing, checking, and delaying.
Not trusting also means experiencing physical tension and a pessimistic worldview that will become exhausting and toxic in the long term.
It's also having trouble letting our guard down when we actually could.
Of course, this avoids being disappointed by others or being abused by them, but at what cost?
The example of tourists on vacation abroad
Let's take the example of foreign travelers who are wary of locals, known (according to them) as people who tend to trick visitors.
These travelers can spend their stay being careful not to get screwed by adopting certain behaviors, such as:
- Keeping a watchful eye on the cab driver and following along by GPS on your smartphone, just to make sure they're not making an unnecessary detour. Contrast this with amiably chatting with him about local customs and learning something or just enjoying the scenery.
- Being suspicious of all merchants by being "vigilant," comparing, negotiating, getting angry, or tense. As opposed to smiling, being curious, discovering, and chatting with the sellers.
By adopting this negative attitude, these travelers will undoubtedly have avoided most opportunities to be "taken advantage of."
However, they will also have failed to enjoy their vacation, even if their trust was sometimes abused, or they didn't always get the best deal.
Obviously, granting trust implies accepting a relative social risk, such as deception or duplicity of others. Still, all this is for the benefit of an improved quality of life.
Also, be aware that the emotional benefits of trust are constant, compared to the one-off material benefits of distrust.
Making good use of trust: Should we then always trust others?
If your goal is to have a better quality of life, you should indeed strive to trust more often than not.
Therefore, the solution lies in our ability to trust the other, not blindly but open-eyed and consciously.
We try to give the maximum possible trust, to trust by default, and consider others as reliable only until proven otherwise.
The trust scale
Some people place anyone at 10 out of 20 on their trust scale, i.e., they have moderate trust but no more than that. Then, they will operate this sliding scale according to the other party's behavior.
Other people, who are more distrustful, start at 0 out of 20. The other party must earn all of their trust, and they get none of their trust for free.
And finally, some people start out at 20 out of 20, i.e., they trust from the outset, and then evaluate as time passes.
As with everything, the key is flexibility.
Indeed, it is up to us to be able to adjust the degree of trust we place in others:
- Not according to our weaknesses: our doubts, fears of not knowing how to defend ourselves, anxieties, or to claim compensation after a deception.
- But depending on the context: it is normal to be more suspicious in business or when winning and exercising power.
- Or depending on the nature of others: it is normal to be less trusting of people we don't know.
Moreover, we should also consider that some failures to trust may also be due to the following:
- misunderstanding, or even
- selfishness instead of malice or cynicism.
How to deal with a betrayal of trust
We can adopt a series of behaviors when our trust is betrayed:
- Remember that the betrayal says more about the person who betrays, not the one who is betrayed.
- By all means, have an increased distrust of the person who betrayed you, but don't necessarily withdraw all confidence in them.
- Suppose you are going to report something to an authority. In that case, you should always first verify the scope and exact nature of the betrayal.
- It is also recommended to eventually talk to the person concerned. You can do this in the form of an inquiry. For example, ask: "Can you explain?" rather than making reproaches or accusations.
- We must not let our emotions gain the upper hand and cause us to generalize distrust toward everyone. We must continue to trust those worthy of our trust.
- Don't delay talking to people close to you to get help assessing the "seriousness" of the betrayal. Beware of the initial period when emotions are still running high, likely radicalizing your judgment.
The individual and collective benefits of mutual trust | Why overcome trust issues?
Trust is fundamental for human societies, whether at the level of intimate relationships (such as relationships between couples, families, friends, and acquaintances) or more broadly at the level of social relationships (such as at work and in life in the broadest sense).
Generally, for any form of human society, the position of mutual trust is the most profitable in the long run.
There is also a possible "positive snowball effect":
- the more we perceive that the other party is attentive to our needs, the more we will trust them, and
- the more they will then perceive that we are attentive to their own needs and the more they will trust us in turn, and so on.
Much research has led to the conclusion that mutual trust will likely bring the most benefit to individuals and social groups in the long run.
The prisoner's dilemma
One of the classic models of interactive trust research in social psychology is proposed by the so-called "prisoner's dilemma."
Take the example of two suspects arrested and jailed for a crime.
The judge is convinced of their guilt but has no proof.
Potential prison terms based on behavior
From then on, he tells them they have the right to speak or remain silent. The prisoners (Alice and Bob) are also told that:
- If neither of them confesses to the judge, and thus both cooperate to keep silent, they will each be sentenced to 2 months in prison.
- If one betrays the other by accusing the other of having done it, the one who betrays will go free, while the accused gets 10 months in prison.
- If, on the other hand, they both confess or betray each other, they will each get 5 months in prison.
In this story, the two prisoners cannot communicate with each other, so they have to decide on their own whether or not to trust each other.
It is also assumed that they are ruthless criminals who are not loyal to each other.
The options are as follows:
- Ideally, the common interest is for both to remain silent, as they will each serve the least time in prison, assuming the other will do the same.
- However, if one betrays the other, they will be released, while the total sentence of 10 months will be suffered by the one who remained silent.
- Then, there is also the selfish temptation to betray the other. At best, you go free. At worst, you get 5 months in prison.
The dilemma for Bob and Alice
The prisoner's dilemma thus consists of the following:
- Cooperation, which leads to the best outcome, whereby each would serve the least time in prison by remaining silent.
- Betrayal, which does not lead to the best outcome. However, each prisoner's best option is always to betray the other, regardless of the other prisoner's answer:
- If Bob betrays Alice, Alice should also betray Bob, because 5 months in prison is better than 10.
- If bob remains silent, Alice should still betray Bob, because being released beats spending 2 months in prison.
- Bob will come to the same conclusion about Alice.
In the prisoner's dilemma, mutual betrayal is always the most likely result, even though it does not lead to the best outcome for each prisoner.
While mutual cooperation would lead to the best outcome, it is an unlikely scenario because it is not a logical choice from each prisoner's selfish standpoint.
Real-life application of the prisoner's dilemma
But in real life, how do we act? Research has shown that the spontaneous tendency, when faced with situations of this type, is to favor distrust.
When faced with strangers, our default mode of distrust will prevail, especially over a limited number of exchanges.
On the other hand, when this exercise is prolonged and repeated, it becomes one of the most effective in accumulating bilateral benefits.
But still, only under certain conditions:
- Don't blindly trust: several betrayals of trust can remove trust.
- Display your intentions openly and follow through on them: "I work on trust, and I do what I say." Don't say one thing and then do another.
- Facilitate the exchange through direct discussions and openly communicating, since a lack of communication or being unapproachable increases distrust.
Be aware that the collective cost of mistrust, which leads to poor cooperation, is always higher than the cost of trust.
- Luce & Raiffa, Games and Decisions, John Wiley and Sons, 1957
- Komorita, et al., Cooperative choice in N-person dilemma situation, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1980
What kind of society would you rather live in?
In general, life is difficult, there are many dishonest people, and you never know who you're dealing with. All this is sadly very true...
But still, trusting others (within reason, of course) remains the least unfavorable option to survive, but especially to live well.
Without trust, we would create a paranoid society where it would be hell to live with others.
Trust is also learning to accept yourself, the world, and others as imperfect.
Why overcome trust issues? Conclusion
For people with low self-esteem, it is recommended to trust others (not blindly, of course) with the goal of leading a serene and fulfilled life.
Living in distrust and fear is not pleasant, and sometimes you have to accept being "fooled" in life to have a better quality of life.
Finally, trust others, yes, but don't be too naive to trust anyone and everyone who comes along.