Imagine a time you received good or bad news. Who was the first person you turned to and shared the news with? It might have been your family or friends, but it might have been someone you just met.
If you have a specific person in mind, think about their qualities. Why did you choose this person specifically? How did they react when they heard the news? And would you turn to them again?
If you think you would turn to this person again, it’s likely because they are trustworthy. And in today’s article, we are going to explore exactly that – what makes a person trustworthy. We are then going to dig deeper into the role of oxytocin, what to do when trust is broken and the overall impact on our wellbeing.
Who do we trust?
Before we gain insight into the qualities of a trustworthy person, let us first see how trust is defined: “to believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable.”
Trustworthiness also includes other qualities such as:
Empathy: We live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world – being mindlessly attached to our phones is a part of our busy lifestyles. This can make it hard to be fully present when communicating with one another. So when you are engaged in a conversation with someone, try to put your technology away for a second. Stopping to listen to someone is a simple act that helps us better understand each others’ feelings. It’s for this reason that empathy is crucial for trust.
Authenticity: To be authentic is to be our true selves, regardless of the situation. It’s easier when we are surrounded by like-minded people, but can be challenging when our beliefs are met with a difference of opinion. Remember to be yourself as best you can.
Quality of logic: How we communicate our train of thought is especially important to ensure that others understand us. When making a point in conversation, we support our opinions with a logical train of thought. Logically formed opinions help build trust.
It turns out that our instincts to identify someone’s trustworthiness based on body language is pretty accurate. There are four cues that we subconsciously pick up on if we deem someone to be untrustworthy: hand touching, face touching, arms crossed and leaning away.
This was demonstrated in games where only trust could earn both parties the most money. Individuals who picked up on the above mentioned cues were less likely to trust the other person.
What to do if trust is broken?
Have you ever heard the phrase “trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair”? Well this is partially true. Trust is very difficult to repair when it’s broken, but that does not mean it is impossible. There are a few things we can do to improve the situation:
Honesty: This one seems pretty straightforward, right? But it’s not only about what we say, it’s also about being honest with our emotions. Making yourself vulnerable shows confidence and authenticity.
Reliability: Keeping your promises is essential in showing that you are consistent in your efforts to repair broken trust. Showing up when you are needed for support and being honest are also important. Remember, patience is key here.
Competence: You might think “what does competence have to do with repairing trust”? Well, when a friend is in need, they will likely turn to you for help if you are knowledgeable. For example, when a teacher helped you with homework that you didn’t understand, you probably sought their assistance again, right?
What is the role of oxytocin in trust?
You might have heard of oxytocin as the “love hormone”. Indeed, this is because it is released during sex. Interestingly, oxytocin also has a role when it comes to trust.
A study investigated oxytocin through a monetary exchange game: Person A had to trust that Person B would return money from a common pool. The researchers sprayed Person A with either oxytocin or a placebo. Those sprayed with oxytocin experienced an increase in trusting behavior and consequently, those participants shared more money in comparison to those in the placebo condition.
It’s fascinating isn’t it? The “love hormone” can make you trust more easily. This is why people trust more when they fall in love!
Is trust related to wellbeing?
Trust is not causally related to wellbeing, but there is an association. Researchers found that living in a trustworthy environment benefits levels of subjective well-being.
People who believed a hypothetical lost wallet would be returned to them by the neighbors or the police, valued their life more. Those who trusted their co-workers were also found to have a higher association with life satisfaction. Another interesting finding in this study was that shared positive experiences and the continuous maintenance of this trust was strongly associated with subjective well-being.
So an easy way to boost subjective well-being? Next time you are at work, continue to establish trusting professional relationships.
What did we learn today?
In conclusion, trust can take years to build but be broken very quickly. Trust is built over time – we look for three qualities in people we deem as trustworthy: empathy, authenticity and quality of logic.
When trust is broken in a relationship, being honest, reliable and competent can help repair it. What’s key here is to be consistent in showing up and supporting our loved ones .
We need more trust in the world, that’s for sure, and trustworthiness is what we need most. In this sense, we must begin with ourselves. Science has shown that it improves relationships, professional lives, society as a whole — and inevitably, it is what makes us happier human beings.
Keywords: happiness, trust, trustworthiness, oxytocin, mental well-being, mental health, social well-being
- Helliwell, J. F., & Wang, S. (2011). Trust and Wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing,1(1), 42-78. doi:10.5502/ijw.v1i1.3
- O’Neill (2013, June). What we don’t understand about trust [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/onora_o_neill_what_we_don_t_understand_about_trust?language=en
- Pizzaro D. (2018, May). Friend or Foe? How do we know who to trust [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/david_pizzaro_friend_or_foe_how_do_we_know_who_to_trust_jan_2019
- Trust. (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/trust
- Uvnas-Moberg, K. (1998). Oxytocin May Mediate the Benefits of Positive Social Interaction and Emotions. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 23, 819–835.