Trust is like a vase…once it is broken, though you can fix it, the vase will never be the same. (Walter Anderson).
Trust is having confidence, faith, or hope in an individual. It is believing they will follow through on what they have said they are going to do. Trust is what all human relationships are built around. Without trust, a relationship will not grow and the relationship fails. Trust is something that is earned in a relationship and allows for the relationship to grow.
Earning trust is based on competence, reliability, integrity, and communication. Competence refers to having the knowledge and skills to complete a task. It is having honorable intentions and by demonstrating competence you gain an individual’s trust.
Reliability is the act of following through on what you said, to be dependable. By demonstrating to another human being that you are reliable, you are expressing your value in them by being dependable. Integrity is honesty. It is doing the right thing and adhering to a set of principles. Communication is how we demonstrate trust. Open honest communication demonstrates trust in a relationship. Communication has to be intentional, every time we engage in communication we can decide to build the relationship with positive communication or break down the relationship by negative communication. To build trust it is important to be building positive honest communication interactions. This is so important when trust is tested in a relationship.
Think of the movie, Dirty Dancing, and Baby asks her father for money for Penny. The trust in that relationship was high, and her father gave her the money without a lot of questions. Then, again the trust was high as Baby had her dad check on Penny when she returned from the doctor. After that scene, trust has been decreased dramatically, and because communication did not demonstrate integrity, honesty, competence or reliability the relationship needed to be rebuilt. Trust had to be “earned” again. Not just in the movies, but in everyday life, trust fluctuates on a continuum and at times in a relationship one individual may “burn up” some of that trust and the relationship may have a road bump.
Parenting often sees this oscillation of trust between teenager and parent. The key to trust is to minimize the times that as a parent we have to expend our trust with our teenager. Those moments, when the easy answer is “because I said so”, are the moments that a parent needs to pause and realize that a better answer is in order. It is at that moment when as a parent we take the easy answer that trust melts away from the relationship. It takes time to explain the reason behind a choice made as a parent. It is remembering that parents have to demonstrate the competence, reliability, integrity, and communication that builds trust. It is the responsibility of a parent to demonstrate building trust and then expect your teenager to do the same. If our answer is “because I said so” it is not reasonable to expect the teenager to divulge information or greater details of a situation as the level of trust in the relationship is not high. Communication has to be open and allow for the trust to be built. Again, in Dirty Dancing, when Baby and her father have the open dialogue at the lake, you see that trust growing and being established between the two characters. This opportunity for open communication was possible because of the trust, though minimal, still existed in their relationship and this trust fostered their commitment to want to work on their relationship.
Teenagers today face many opposing views and now more than ever need to have that trusting relationship with their parents. Creating this trust and building a relationship with your teenager requires the ability of a parent to discipline with love, mentor with authority, and love unconditionally. It is understanding that the teenage brain is changing and growing, that critical thinking skills and high-order cognition is developing, and that sometimes poor choices are made in the light of their inability to understand the long term consequences of their behavior. However, by developing trust in the relationship, as a parent you are more likely to hear about the bad choice and can intervene at an earlier stage. Trust allows for the dynamic communication between teenager and adult, so that encouragement and guidance can help facilitate their development into adulthood.
Trust establishes the bond of a relationship that allows for fierce conversations. Trust fosters the conversation and the conversation is the relationship. Without conversation the relationship dissipates. I encourage you to take the time to build trust in the relationship and to continue to grow trust on a continual basis in relationships.
I have included a couple of references to help you get started on developing communication skills and building trust.
Faber, A., Mazlish, M. (2012). How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk. New York, NY: Scribner
Luntz, F. (2008). Words that work: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. New York, NY: Hyperion.