Trust is a fundamental factor in creating and maintaining meaningful relationships. Trusting in someone can mean everything from telling a person your deepest secrets to knowing they'll be on time for an appointment. There are many levels of trust, but all require you to put your faith in someone.


Building Trust

  1. Offer your trust first. Putting yourself out there is tough, but it is much easier to build trusting relationships if you are willing to take the first step. Try something small, like sharing a personal story, confiding a small anxiety, or asking someone to go on a date. If the person is rude or distant, then you can move on to someone else. But if they offer something back or sympathize with you, telling a similar story or agreeing to go on a date, then you’ve both taken the first step towards a trusting relationship.[1]
  2. Build trust over time. Trust is not a switch that you can switch on or off. Rather, it's built up over time, growing alongside your relationship. Begin trusting people with little things – getting to a meeting on time, helping with small errands – before trusting someone with big secrets.
    • There is no need to force a judgment on someone right when you meet them.
  3. Confide in people slowly. Baring your secrets, fears, and insecurities requires a lot of trust. Sharing your emotions with someone often takes place later in a relationship, after you have already built up trust. Start confiding in someone slowly, seeing how they respond, before fully committing to trust them. Whenever you share stories with someone, ask yourself a few questions:
    • Do they seem interested in what I have to say? Trust requires that both parties care about each other.
    • Are they willing to share stories about themselves? Trust is a give and take, where both parties feel comfortable sharing.
    • Are they dismissive, condescending, or oblivious to my worries and concerns? Trust requires respect.
  4. Have different levels of trust for different people. There is no set “level” of trust that you need with people. There are going to be some people who you trust a little, like coworkers or new acquaintances, and some people you would trust with your life. Instead of putting people into two categories, “trustworthy” and “untrustworthy,” look at trust as a spectrum.
  5. Observe a person’s actions and behaviors, not their words. It is easy to make a promise but hard to keep one. You should watch people’s actions to see if they are trustworthy, not follow their words. If you ask them for a favor, reserve your judgment until the job ends. By observing actions and not words you can view someone’s trust objectively, building trust based on facts.
  6. Be a trustworthy person in return. If you want to build trust with someone, you need to be trustworthy yourself. If you are constantly breaking promises, telling secrets, or showing up late, you will find that people do the same thing to you. Think about other people's needs. Offer your help and guidance, and listen to them when they talk to build a trusting relationship.
    • Never share someone’s secrets with other people unless they are in need of help. For example, a depressed friend may confide in you that they have suicidal thoughts, but you should share this with a counselor or professional even if they ask you not to tell.
    • Keep your promises, and don’t cancel plans once you’ve made them.
    • Be honest, even in difficult situations.
  7. Remember that no one is perfect. Unfortunately, people are always going to make mistakes – skipping a meeting, letting a secret slip, or acting selfishly. If you expect every person to “earn your trust” they will all fall short from time to time. Trusting someone is about seeing through a person’s occasional faults at the bigger picture.[2]
    • When people make the same mistake time after time, or refuse to apologize for problems, they become untrustworthy.
  8. Trust yourself. If you believe someone is trustworthy, then go with your instincts. Having faith in yourself not only makes it easier to build trust, it makes it easier to move on when someone breaks your trust. Know that you are emotionally stable and happy. This helps you feel comfortable taking a risk trusting other people.[3]

Finding Trustworthy People

  1. Know that trustworthy people are reliable and on-time. Someone you trust values your time and opinion, and won’t put their interests first all the time. Being late to meetings, dates, or events with you is a sign that they may not be fully trustworthy.
    • Apply this concept within reason – everyone is late from time to time. The bigger issue is with people who are never on time or constantly cancel or change plans with you.
  2. Know that trustworthy people follow through on their words. There is often a big difference between what some people say and what they do, but trustworthy people practice what they preach. To trust someone you have to know that they will do the things they say they will. Trustworthy people, for example:
    • Keep promises they have made.
    • Finish jobs, chores, or errands they commit to doing.
    • Follow through on plans made together.[4]
  3. Know that trustworthy people don’t lie. Liars are some of the most difficult people in the world to trust because you can never know what they are actually thinking about. If you catch someone making lies, even small ones, it is a major red-flag that they are not trustworthy. Make a mental note of any large exaggerations and white lies. If they happen every time you see someone, they are more likely than not untrustworthy.
    • Liars often fidget, have trouble looking you in the eye, and change the details of stories frequently.[5]
    • This includes “lies by omission,” when people hide information from you to avoid tension or anger.[6]
  4. Know that trustworthy people will trust you back. More often than not, a trustworthy friend is willing to confide in you as well. They know that having trust is a two-way street, and you must feel comfortable sharing things if you want people to share back. When someone trusts you it is a signal that they value your friendship and opinion, making them less likely to do things that would damage your relationship.
  5. Note how someone talks about other people. If someone constantly tells you secrets or says things like, “Benny asked me not to say this, but...” then they will likely do the same with your secrets. The way people act around your is indicative of how they act when you are not around. If you think that other people shouldn’t trust this person, you probably shouldn’t trust them either.

Repairing Trust after Trauma

  1. Know that it is normal to have trust issues after trauma. After difficult events, most people will become defensive and have a hard time trusting people. This is a survival instinct – trusting someone leaves you vulnerable for future pain. Thus, avoiding trust can protect you from harm.[7] Don’t blame yourself for having trust issues. Rather, acknowledge the pain and try to learn from the past.
  2. Remember that one person’s actions are not reflective of everyone. There are negative, mean, and untrustworthy people in the world. Most people, however, are kind and trusting, so don’t let one bad experience or person destroy your ability to trust again. Always remind yourself that there are good people around, too.
  3. Slow down your judgment. Oftentimes, when we're hurt, angry, or upset, we react emotionally and make the situation worse. Before deciding that you no longer trust someone, take a few minutes to ask yourself rational questions:
    • What facts do I know about the incident?
    • What am I guessing or assuming about this person?
    • How did I behave in this situation? Was I trustworthy?
  4. Know that people remember betrayal more than positive interactions. According to a Cornell University study,[1] our brains are hardwired to remember betrayal faster than good memories, even if the betrayal is small. Remember your positive interactions with someone as you rebuild trust. There are likely more good memories then you immediately remember.
  5. Look for sincere, meaningful apologies. People make mistakes, even people you thought you could trust. What matters most after an argument or incident is how the person responds. Quick or curt apologies often show that the person is not really apologizing. Usually, they simply want you to stop being angry at them. Truly sincere apologies are ones that you do not demand, when someone looks you in the eyes and asks for forgiveness. A sincere apology is the first step to rebuilding trust.
    • Offer your own apologies for wrongdoing when applicable.
  6. Adjust your expectations. Just because someone has lost your trust doesn’t mean they are entirely untrustworthy. Instead of returning back to where you started, try trusting someone with smaller, more manageable things. When a friend tells secrets behind your back, you may not confide in them again. That doesn’t mean, however, that you cannot still hang out, work on projects, or talk with each other.[8]
  7. Know that you may never fully trust someone who has hurt you. Unfortunately, though you can rebuild a lot of trust with someone, there are times when the wounds are too deep to be forgiven. If someone has proven to you that they are not trustworthy don't feel bad for cutting them out of your life. You cannot open yourself up to be hurt or abused again.
  8. Make a counseling appointment if you still have severe trust issues. Major trauma has a lasting impact on the brain, and you should consider seeing a professional if you cannot build trust with people. A symptom of PTSD is an inability to trust. If you do not want to see a therapist, try out a support group in your area first.
    • Remember that you are not alone with your issues – there are other people like you who are also struggling with trauma.[9]


  • Be patient and optimistic, and people will do the same to you.
  • People can be harsh or even mean, but don't forget that they can be good as well.
  • Trusting someone is always a risk, but one worth taking.


  • If someone repeatedly breaks your trust then they are not worthy of it. Beware of people who will always ask forgiveness – if they are truly trustworthy, they will not keep hurting you.

Sources and Citations