Protecting Your Relationships With Trust

Photo Credit: Terry Johnston

All relationships have a buffer that protects them from damage.  This is true of platonic as well as romantic relationships.  I call this the “Benefit of the Doubt” buffer.

Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “Oh, I know her and she would never say that!”?

This is the benefit of the doubt.  What the person is really saying is, “I trust that person’s character. What you have told me doesn’t line up with my previous experience.”

What Is the “Benefit of the Doubt” Buffer.


Our willingness to extend the benefit of the doubt to another person comes from our trust in them and what we already know of, and have experienced with, them.

Where does trust come from?

The Foundations of Trust

1. Expectations Met
When someone meets our expectations then how we perceive them matches our experience of them.  This builds confidence with us.  We know we can rely that how they behave will correspond to how we perceive their personality, motives and intentions.

2. Commitments Kept
Every time someone keeps a commitment, they also create greater trust with us.  A commitment that is kept is like a loan payment on a note.  It gives us greater confidence that they will continue to meet their obligations to us.

Bottom Line

The bottom line for your relationships is this: If you build trust in your relationship, you are creating a buffer of protection around the relationship.

When the storms come–you lose your temper, you make a mistake of judgment, or you bring disappointment–they will blow over much more easily and the sun will return more quickly if there is a “levy” system of trust built around the shore of your relationship.

Your friend/spouse/partner/colleague can easily forgive a mistake when there is sufficient trust built up.  The rationalization process will work in your favor.  They will think, She rarely loses her temper. It must just be a bad day.

 In essence, they are saying that losing your temper doesn’t jibe with the experience they’ve had with you.  They look for reasons to excuse the lapse instead of reasons to believe the worst.  This is the power of trust.

Now it’s your turn. What do you do to build trust into your relationships?  How do you re-build trust if it has been broken?

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve Rice and my goal is to transform simple philosophical truths into practical fuel to revolutionize your life. It's not about self-help, it's about self-reliance. I show you how. Connect with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and let me know how I can help you.

  • It is really hard to protect once relationship even if you say that you work so hard to protect it. I must agree that trust is one of the most important element when it comes to relationship so that it can last for a lifetime. Very well written Steve and if only I trust my partner before then maybe until now we are still be together.

    • Steve

      Thank you, Tracyann. It takes a track record to learn trust. Don’t be too hard on yourself for the past. I always take great comfort in this advice from Maya Angelou: When we know better, we do better. You’re a great online friend, and I appreciate you.

  • It is a simple formula, as you point out. When trust falters, how well it was kept before that moment will help in the recovery. In other words, if there is a reservoir of trust built up, there may be some cushion to recover when betrayed. I am not suggesting that we can afford to betray trust. I am suggesting that we can recover. All in all, it comes down to character, and being a trusted character is one of the best to be in life.

    • Steve

      That’s exactly it, Jon. I love that word: reservoir. It allows for greater grace and mercy in the relationship. You’re right…it is about character and trustworthiness. Thanks so much for your encouragement and insight.

  • Great read Steve!

    Yes indeed, relationships are based and DO exist only because of the trust we have in them. I wonder how else we would really be able to survive otherwise!

    I wonder if you managed to read one of the posts I had written on my blog about ‘Developing trust in a relationship’, though those were the ways you could develop the trust.

    But you have so rightly mentioned that when we are in a relationship we sort of expect the other person to know the reason for our erratic behavior at times and want them to believe and trust us, that this could be happening because we have had a bad day. While I do agree to this part, but i also feel that often partners start taking each other for granted and that’s another area where relationships have conflicts.

    However, I still believe in that trust and communication are the two pillars that make a foundation of a relationship strong.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Steve

      Thanks, Harleena. I’m focusing on relationships here on the blog and on my podcast. I’m also hosting a live Spreecast this Thursday to discuss this topic.

      I’m not sure if I had read your post, but I’m definitely off to find and (re) read it as soon as I finish this comment! 🙂

      You bring up such a great point, about our erratic behavior. I think making assumptions (about someone’s motives or about what they should or should not do) is one of the most damaging things in relationships. It’s so important to be as self-aware as possible, and then be humble enough to say, “I’m feeling stressed/scared/frustrated, and my mood has nothing to do with you. I’m dealing with it”

      When my partner says things like this, it allows me to breathe easier and I realize that I don’t have to make up a story about what I’m doing wrong/or not doing right and I can just be love in that moment and allow him to take responsibility for his own emotions and well-being. Much more respectful than becoming passive aggressive and petulant.

      Thank you so much for your always on-point insights, my friend.

  • In order to build trust, I feel that it is very important to keep your commitments to the other person. If you constantly come up with excuses as to why you couldn’t meet your agreed upon commitments, then the foundation of trust is eroded. When you do what you say you are going to do, then the level of trust is enhanced.

    I agree with Harleena. It is critical to let the other person know that you value the relationship. This can be done in many ways. You can actually tell the other person that you love/appreciate him/her. (My husband and I have been married 31 years and we never say good-bye – either by phone or in person – without saying I love you.) You can demonstrate that you value the relationship by being considerate to the other person and doing little things that go the ‘extra mile.’ You can say thank you when the other person shows consideration towards you. All of these actions communicate that the other person is important to you.

    If you have done something which could threaten the level of trust between you and another person (i.e., yelling at someone when it isn’t warranted), accept responsibility. Apologize and tell the person that you were wrong and you will not repeat the action again. Then make sure that you keep your word.

    It takes time to build up trust. Thinking about the importance of the relationship before you take action (especially negative action) is a good way to keep the bonds of trust strong and solid.

    • Steve

      Thanks for your insight, Rev Della. 🙂

      Fulfilling the commitments we make to another give us a continuous opportunity to make trust “deposits” in the emotional bank account of our relationship.

      I think being observant and noticing the little things is one of the most powerful ways to signal to another person that I value our relationship. Also, taking an interest in what interests them, and looking for ways that I can enhance them in achieving their objectives also says, “you’re valued.”

      You suggestions, insights and observations are so helpful. Thank you for stopping to comment. I appreciate you doing this.

  • Great post Steve! Trust is so important in not only our relationships with partners or friends, but also our clients and business associates.

  • To me trust is something that is built up over time by practicing what you preach – for instance to treat others with respect. I also beleive in being somewhat transparent in what I am doing or why I am saying something, rather than keeping my motives hidden. It sounds like common sense, but it is surprising the amount of people who are vague or avoid sharing their motives and then wonder why no one trusts them.

    • Steve

      Petrea, I think you and I are completely on the same page in this regard…I think “practicing what you preach” is really about integrity…being congruent. I think don Miguel Ruiz says it well in The Four Agreements…be “impeccable” with your words.

      I’m so glad you brought up the other point about transparency. Making our motives clear and guarding against manipulation through passive aggression is really important in relationships. I’m convinced this is why my own relationship grew strongly when we were first laying the foundation for it…we made a conscious decision not to put up with any passive aggression…and we were willing to call each other on it if we saw it.

      It was a powerful tool to have a “language” to talk about our insecurities or patterns of behavior without feeling defensive or exposed.

  • Trust is indeed necessary in any kinds of relationship. Whether it’s between you and your family, friends or special someone, keeping the trust strong would ensure a good, smooth-flowing relationship through the years. You should avoid doing things that would trigger any misunderstandings and would cause suspicions.

  • Truth! The only thing I’d add to this is that we can build up and wear down this buffer, our willingness to believe because we trust. Sometimes, we lose trust – when we’re lied to or find out we’ve been taken for a fool. Sometimes, we build it – when our expectations are far exceeded or we get the help we need. It’s not a constant thing that’s either present or not (the breaking of trust is simply the wearing away of the buffer over time in big chunks; the final straw removes it altogether). A spectrum, if you will.

    • Steve

      Hi, Ellie Di. Good to see you. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you.

      Absolutely agree with you about breaking down and building up the “trust buffer” in relationship. I’ve heard people refer to it like an emotional bank account. You have to make consistent deposits in order to keep the trust level high. I like your suggestion that every relationship is on a spectrum. The key is to keep the lines of communication open so that erosion of the barrier is minimal and can be shored up easily.

  • Violet

    Trust in.. I am very thankful that this article was helpful! . Im searching for a peace of mind… Good Luck to all.

  • I like this post Steve…….it’s funny, as I read this I immediately thought, ‘that’s why I don’t have expectations’ or try not to most of the time, but I realize there’s something deeper you’re talking about here. I basically am who I am……my actions are what I believe build trust. How do I rebuild it? Pretty much the same thing…….I believe actions do speak louder than words for me most of the time……and I’d go back to the actions that are truly me.

    • Steve

      Thanks, Gina! So glad to have your perspective on this topic. One of the most powerful techniques for building a strong relationship is recognizing and letting go of the expectations we hold for ourselves and other people. Integrity (“I am who I am”) is also essential to building trust!

  • I’m fortunate enough to have trust in people until there is a reason not to trust them, so it’s kind of an up-front trust. Conversely, I behave in a trustworthy manner. If I make a commitment I do my best to honor it. I try to be honest and open as well. If I don’t do anything that makes me untrustworthy, then I’m someone who can be trusted.

    • Steve

      That’s a great way to start strong relationships, Loran! Trust them until they show you otherwise. It’s all about the benefit of the doubt. you’re practicing one of the greatest principles of universal truth: What you put out comes back to you. You have lived in a trustworthy manner, and you expect others to treat you the same way. I would expect that this is your primary experience with most people in your life. Kudos!

  • Joseph

    I have issues trusting others. I feel that I can never trust that they truly like me. I also have issues building trust with others because I have memory issues and often forget about commitments made. Plus, there is one person that is a friend of mine, I have issues keeping commitments with him because things I thought he laid out as suggestions he meant to be put in stone. I never want to not keep an commitment, but when he says that going on hike tomorrow sounds good, how am I too know that means we are suppose to go hiking tomorrow?

    • Steve

      Wow, Joseph. I’m sorry you’ve gone through the wringer in your relationships. I’d encourage you to check out the webcast I just did on You can find the info at I’m going to be doing weekly webcasts on relationships for the next few thursdays…feel free to join me!

      On last nights webcast, I talked about the most important relationship we have and where our relationships with others actually reside. It might help you.

      It seems like you’re really challenged with your friend. From what you’ve described, clarity is key with him. If it were me, I would nail down potential commitments definitively, then I would track them either electronically or writing them down by hand so I would know it was a firm commitment. Many of the problems that we face in our lives are because of the expectations we have or that others have of us, and the assumptions that we make.

      Hang in there. You can do this! 🙂

  • Steve,

    This is an inspiring post Steve. I guess a relationship without trust cannot survive.
    Furthermore, gaining someone’s trust is never easy. One needs to exert some efforts to fill the ‘trust tank’ and keep away on doing things that might break it.

    Spatch Merlin
    More Web Site Traffic Guide

    • Steve

      Thanks, Spatch! Appreciate you stopping by the site. Trust definitely is the currency of a strong relationship. It really is about keeping the “tank” full and avoiding the pot holes. Great insight.

  • Interesting post. 🙂
    In my case it depends which kind of relationship we’re talking about. If it’s a friendship with another woman I really have no issues about building trust: I am considered one of these friends that one can really count on and most of the times I can count on my girlfriends as well.
    If it’s a relationship with a guy, no matter if platonic or romantic, I have no trust at all. In fact there are only three men in the world that I do trust lately: my father, my uncle and my brother.

    • Steve

      That’s fascinating, Sabrina. What do you think it is that keeps you from any trust at all with a man. I think it’s interesting that you make no distinction with platonic and romantic relationships, so I’m kind of curious what you think causes you to mistrust men? Or, asked another way, what allows you to trust women so readily.

      I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. I find this truly fascinating.

  • Monica@Jovani

    Yeah, I believe that “TRUST” is one of the most important ingredient to have a successful relationship. It’s believing that the person you love will always care and love you.