The Laws of Trust: How to Make Your Relationships Work Better

These days, more and more people are putting so much stock in their “feelings.” Some people are getting upset if someone else disagrees with them and other people are devastated if something is said that offends anyone about anything. The way I see it, it’s unfortunate that people’s feelings get hurt, but that’s life.

Of course, I believe feelings are important and need to be considered. I’ve got doctoral degrees in communication and psychology for heaven’s sake and I coach a lot of people through a lot of feelings.

But there’s something more important than feelings if you want to get ahead personally and professionally. You’ve got to pay attention to the LAWS that govern our universe as a whole and the LAWS that determine your life outcomes in particular.

For example, if you step off a ten-story building, you’re going down, no matter how you feel about gravity. You may not like gravity. You may be frustrated by its effect on your body as you age. You may whine that it’s not fair. But it doesn’t matter how you feel. The law of gravity says you’re going down.

In a similar sense, there are THE LAWS OF TRUST that put you on the path of thriving relationships or dying relationships, personally and professionally. In fact, I’ll be delivering a five-week virtual class on that very topic this October and November. Send me an email if you would like to be on the waiting list as registration will be strictly limited.

Let me give you an abbreviated overview of some of the LAWS OF TRUST.

►1. The Law of Fairness

To build a trusting relationship you have to play by the same rules as everybody else, no matter how big, important, or powerful you might be.

Of course, that’s just plain common sense. But it is not common practice. Look around you and you’ll see all kinds of people playing by a different set of rules.

One person gets prosecuted for committing a certain crime, but somebody else who commits the same crime is never bothered if he or she belongs to the right group. That’s why people often joke about … or complain about … the fact that someone “got the best justice money could buy.”

Perhaps that’s why one Pittsburgh lawyer has the audacity to advertise “I may have a law degree but I think like a criminal!” He has a number of criminals (portrayed by family, friends and relatives) who endorse him for getting them out of trouble.

If you ever get to the point of thinking the rules no longer apply to you, be careful. Your relationships are in danger of falling apart because you’re violating the Law of Fairness.

Question: Would others say you live by the Law of Fairness? Or would others say you’re willing to cut a few corners to get your way or get ahead of others?

► 2. The Law of Congruence

You can’t say one thing and do another and expect to build trust. There has to be total congruence between who you are and what you do. That’s what integrity is all about.

You can’t say, for example, that career advancement is important to you and never take any classes to learn more or get better. You can’t say that you care about your family and never have time to spend with them. And you can’t say your faith is vital but do nothing to build it. That would make you ignorant at best and a hypocrite at worst … because you’re being incongruent.

And simply put, people can’t trust you or anyone who lives a life of incongruency.

Question: How well do you walk your talk? Are there any gaps between your walk and your talk in your life? What are you going to do about them?

► 3. The Law of Openness

We trust people who are open about everything. No lies. No half-truths. No coverups. No misdirects. We trust people when their words, actions and motivations are open, honest, and transparent.

When I teach this concept, some people look at my quizzically. Total openness? And then they’ll ask me, “How do I know if I’m building or destroying the trust of others? How do I know if I’m actually living The Law of Openness and not fooling myself?”

Great questions and I have three great answers for them and for you. If you can pass these three tests, you’re in good shape.

First, would you be okay with your words, actions, and motivations highlighted in the news or on social media?

If your answer is yes, you’re on the right track. But if you really don’t want people to know some of that stuff, if you want to hide some things, you’re doing something that is not trustworthy.

Second, are you willing and able to tell the truth when a lie would be easier?

George Orwell wrote about that in his book 1984, painting a picture of what would happen to a society that wasn’t vigilant in protecting the truth. And to a large extent, we’re there today. That’s why Orwell proclaimed, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” And I would add, it’s an uncommon act that is bound to build trust.

Third, do you do what’s right when no is looking?

Untrustworthy people think you can get away with a little white lie, a simple indiscretion, or a small unethical choice because no one is watching. But that’s a dangerous route to take. History tells us that the truth almost always comes out. As Helen Rowland (1875-1950) journalist and humorist writes, “It’s easier to hide your light under a bushel than to keep your shady side dark.”

Doing what’s right when no one’s looking is an essential part of character, integrity, and being able to trust someone. It lines up with The Law of Openness.

Question: How comfortable are you with the world knowing about your true words, actions, and motivations?