“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential element in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationship.” (Stephen Covey)
Some people struggle with honesty more than others. This struggle usually results from significant feelings of instability. Even after finding consistency, the struggle often returns when routines get rattled. With these people, learning how to earn trust is essential.
A great way to understand how to earn trust comes from how we can teach it to our children. My husband and I often told our boys that they determine how much we trusted them; they got to decide the level of trust that existed.
Practical Ways to Earn Trust
After explaining that how much we trust them is up to them, we provided practical ways to earn trust.
- Be faithful with small things. Small things done consistently over time add up to make a big difference. For our boys, this meant being responsible with their possessions and keeping their rooms clean.
- Do what’s right even when no one is looking. We reminded them that someone (i.e., God) always sees and that while he may not get caught, they don’t get away with it. We explained that this is the basis of their character.
- Check your attitude. Eye rolls. Hand flings. Voice tone. All of these speak toward lack of receptiveness. Being receptive — being teachable — opens your life up to blessings rather than undesirable consequences.
- Don’t get defensive. Fully listen first, which earns you the right to be heard. Defensiveness only alerts to the presence of dishonesty even more.
- Stop excuses. Think first, then check your motives. Before giving excuses, ask yourself if you’re trying to hide something. Own up to mistakes.
- Be honest. Seems obvious, but simply deciding to be truthful in attitude, actions, and words goes a long way in your efforts to earn trust.
- Think of others. Putting others first often not only keeps you out of a lot of trouble, but it shows that you’re striving to not be selfish. Unselfishness goes a long way to help earn trust because dishonestly usually has selfish motives.
- Be dependable. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Keep your commitments. There’s no quitting a team when the coach is mean. Young people can often serve as examples to adults in this area.
- Admit mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Get out how you’re feeling. Process your feelings. Deal with them before they direct you. Don’t let feelings determine actions. Don’t get hung up on the mistakes either. Move on.
- Stay positive. So many people are negative, mean, and selfish. That doesn’t mean you have to be. Don’t let your circumstances determine your reality. Stay positive and focus on what you know is right.
This approach to building trust works for any relationship, not just when teenagers want to earn trust with parents. Actually, the above habits are essential for anyone wanting a reputation of solid character.