One important aspect of building healthy relationships is being trustworthy and surrounding yourself with people that are trustworthy themselves. Many people share a past where they had negative interpersonal experiences that affected their ability to trust other people or to be trustworthy. In this exercise we are going to work on several components that can help you build trust in relationships: being honest, being understanding and respectful and consistent.

DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness: Trust in Relationships
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Step One : Being Honest

Think about whether you are usually honest in your relationships or not. Do you feel comfortable sharing the truth? In other words, do you trust the people around you enough so that you would share your truth? This can be particularly challenging if the truth is something that is difficult or uncomfortable to share.

Note that you should first try to evaluate whether the person you are communicating with has earned your trust so that you can trust them with your thoughts and feelings back.

Think of a recent situation where you found it difficult to share your honest opinion, thoughts or feelings about something. Then, practice being honest and formulate what you would say, even though it might've been uncomfortable at the moment.

Situation : Rachel had a difficult time telling her boyfriend that she doesn't want to hang out with some of his friends because they usually joke around in an insensitive and degrading way. Instead of telling her boyfriend the truth, she usually tells him that she is too tired to go out or to have them over.
Practicing being honest: "Although it is a little difficult for me to tell you this because I feel uncomfortable, I trust you enough that you will understand me. The reason why I tend to not want to hang around with some of your friends is because I feel offended and hurt when they joke about something that I said or did."

Step Two : Being Understanding and Respectful

It is important that the person that we are talking to is feeling validated, appreciated and heard while we are communicating with them. You can practice being understanding by reflecting their point of view and emotions in a non-judgmental way.

It is hard for other people to be honest with you if they expect that you will criticize or judge them. Remember that everybody does things because they have their reasons and because usually, they get a certain need met. Even though sometimes it may not be obvious to us why the person we are talking to decides to take one route over another, we should treat their decisions with respect.

Note, this mean that you have to approve or agree with the other person. It just means you need to open yourself to understanding their situation and being respectful.

Think about a recent situation and how you practiced or how you would've practiced being understanding and respectful. Write it down in the worksheet.

Situation :Mary is meeting her friend for dinner. While they are talking, her friend is telling Mary that she's been drinking more and more because she's been dealing with lot of stress because of some medical problems.

Practicing being understanding and respectful : "It must feel terrible having that operation hanging over your head. I care about you. Tell me more about what is going on. "

Step Three : Being Consistent

Another important component for building mutual trust is being consistent and stable over time. When people are unpredictable with their decisions and behaviors - that can make them less trustworthy and can lead to decreased interpersonal effectiveness.

Think of a recent situation where you practiced being consistent or would've benefited from that. Write the example down in the worksheet.

Situation: My wife had a stressful couple of months. Last night when we started watching a movie she wanted to talk about some things going on at her job.
Practicing being consistent:
Although I was a little tired and just wanted to watch the movie, I knew that she would appreciate it if I paused the movie and made myself available to listen. Every time she wants to talk about something important to her, I make it a priority to give her my full undivided attention.

Think about how you would apply these three steps in the way you are communicating with other people. Try to apply them in your day to day life.

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How should I evaluate whether the other person is trustworthy enough?

In order to evaluate whether you can trust somebody, you can use the same three components that we've been working on in this exercise. Be mindful about whether they are being honest in the way they are communicating. Are they understanding and respectful towards you? Is their behavior is predictable ? Do they follow through on what they say.

I want to know whether I can trust someone new I met. Is there a fast way to do it?

Healthy and strong relationships are built over time. Just like the fact that anything that is with sound quality is built over time - you will also need a little more time to evaluate whether somebody is trustworthy. There is no shortcut. That is not to say that you should be overly skeptical: certain relationships (romantic relationships, friendships etc.) feel right from the beginning and in some cases they stand the test of time, and in other cases they don't.

Does being consistent mean that I should stick to the routine of the relationship and avoid trying new things with the other person?

Being consistent refers to following through with your promises, support, understanding and proven dynamics regarding the other person. Being open and trying new things, like mutual activities, different ways of spending your mutual time is a different concept and is healthy part of a relationship.

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If you have any behavioral health questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare or mental health care provider. This article is supported by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from behavioral health societies and governmental agencies. However, it is not a substitute for professional behavioral health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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