Mothers deserve to be honored every day of the year, but Mother’s Day is a special day set aside to acknowledge the unique and special contributions that only moms can make. Love, nurture, sympathy, devotion, wisdom, gentleness, and discipline are just some of the many ways moms pour their hearts into the lives of their children.[This is a followup article on the last week’s radio talk for the Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day!]
Mom’s are also great for dropping those pearls of wisdom in our lives when we need them most. We may not always appreciate the value of mom’s advice at the time, but as we get older, we treasure the knowledge she imparts. Interestingly enough, as I reflect on the wisdom my mother shared with me, I realize much of it had to do with the formation of my character and the encouragement to be a trustworthy individual.
Trust is an interesting concept. By the time you get to work in the morning, you may have chosen to trust or not trust a dozen people. When you turn on the weather channel, you are choosing to trust the meteorologist. When you leave your jewelry on your dressing table, you do so because you trust the cleaning person who will come in the afternoon. When you count your change at the deli, you are choosing to not trust the cashier. Even spending money requires trusting that the otherwise worthless rectangle of green material in your hand has value.
Trust is what keeps our society functioning. Evolutionarily speaking, we must trust to survive. But it can be a slippery thing. Trust comes from knowing a person so well that you only count on them in areas where it’s reasonable to. Because that’s the honest, self-caring, and considerate thing to do.
What makes us trust people? And more curiously, what makes us trust some people but not others?
Expectation and Reciprocation
According to the “experts”—sociologists, psychologists, economists, political scientists—trust is based on expectation. To the degree you believe you can expect a certain response from someone, you trust him. To the degree you believe he will reciprocate at some point in the future in some (often undefined) way, you trust him. Of course, past experience—with the person in question or with others—will affect that confidence, but in the here and now, certain behaviors and visual cues can also influence if and how much you trust someone. Of course, while such behaviors and visual cues might inspire trust, they don’t guarantee trustworthiness.
Trust is an art. There are no set-in-stone rules. All you can do is learn from the mistakes, and find better and healthier ways to trust people, reasonably, honestly, and compassionately.
Trust is not some right that comes with every friendship, just like intimacy isn’t an obligation. Trust is something you work at, together. You test it out, you keep an open mind, you listen, and you watch. Learning how to trust others will humble you, to get to know yourself even better.
Here are some pearls of wisdom Mom shared that relate to building trust:
- Be yourself – Down to earth, genuine, and authentic people build trust with others. People who are comfortable in their own skin draw others to them and create an atmosphere of warmth and safety.
- Do your best – Trustworthy people take pride in their work and exhibit a high degree of conscientiousness, a key trait that has been shown to separate high performers from average ones. Demonstrating earnestness, a strong work ethic, and diligence are all ways of doing your best.
- Say please and thank you – Showing these simple gestures of politeness and consideration of others is a remarkably easy way to build trust. Being polite demonstrates you respect others and their contributions.
- Treat everyone with respect – This pearl of wisdom shows you value other people. Every person has inherent worth, regardless of their socio-economic level, race, religion, etc. Showing respect communicates a level of humility about yourself that breeds trust with others.
- Stand up for what you believe in – Whether it’s standing up to bullies or taking a stance on an unpopular issue, moms encourage us to be true to our principles. That’s what integrity means – behaving consistently with your values. A person of integrity is a trustworthy person.
- Keep your word – The bedrock of trustworthiness is following through on your commitments. If you agree to do something, do it. If you make a mistake, admit it. If you wrong someone, apologize. Simple to say, sometimes much harder to do, but essential for trustworthiness.
- Don’t say anything about someone you wouldn’t say to their face – Gossiping, back-stabbing, and being disloyal are quick ways to break trust with people. It takes a tremendous amount of character to be honorable to people, especially when they aren’t around.
- Treat others the way you would like to be treated – This rule is golden for a reason. It serves as a guiding principle for many of the axioms on this list. It conveys respect, love, consideration, honor, and generosity of spirit, all of which build trust with others.
Those are just a few of the pearls all mothers share with us that help us become trustworthy individuals. I am curious to know what other nuggets of truth your mother has shared along these lines. If you have an experience that taught you an important lesson in trust, I trust you will share in the comments below.