Hey officer, are you really worthy of trust?

It is the innumerable small moments in life that define whether we are a person worthy of trust

It takes a lifetime to build trust and a second to destroy it. All of us have at least one story of when our trust has been betrayed and a relationship ended because of the damage done and wounds inflicted. Many of us also have stories of a time the opposite was true, when trust was violated but the relationship became stronger because the parties involved turned towards one another and worked it out and healed. 

Trust is a core value many of us deeply cherish and look for in order to solidify a relationship. It is how we gauge who we allow in our lives and who is held at arm’s length. Yet, very few people take time to define what trust really is or what it entails, instead preferring to go by gut instinct, our past experiences, or what our families taught us and we’ve come to take for granted. 

Maybe what we know of trust came from a book we read or a sermon given by a pastor, but how many have really taken a look at how trust is built? 

Relationship Stereotypes
Law enforcement relationships (LEO and spouse/significant other) are often considered uniquely fragile and prone to failure. Whether true or not, the stereotype may have some basis in reality even if only historically. 

More recent research seems to indicate cops’ relationships are about on par with those of the general public in terms of divorce/failure rates, but it is hard to reconcile this with what each of us sees, experiences, and knows about our own relationships, or those of our coworkers. 

All the research in the world can tell us police couples are no more or less likely to fail than any other but it’s hard to believe seeing so many cops with divorces and multiple marriages under their gun belts. Maybe the problem is that relationships are really hard to sustain no matter what. 

Policing is one of a few professions where professional trust – that your partner will keep you safe, your boss will have your back, your subordinates will respect your authority, or your agency and politicians will simply do what’s right – is crucial for peace of mind and sometimes physical safety. It’s also one where so many cops are disappointed.

Researcher and relationship expert Dr. John Gottman Ph.D. has done over 40 years of research at the University of Washington on what will make or end a relationship. In his research he has found it is really not the big moments in life that define and build trust but the small and seemingly insignificant everyday moments when a person chooses to turn toward another and tend to their needs selflessly rather than their own desires. 

To best illustrate this point, see Dr. Gottman’s video below:

Are You a Trust Builder?
As you look at yourself and your relationships, whether it be with a spouse, partner, child, or coworker, who do you take care of when trust building moments present themselves? Are you someone who naturally creates an environment where people trust you or do others find you untrustworthy? 

Others are going to determine who you are by how you react in the small moments in life. But it is hard to be a trustworthy person because you have to allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable and allow yourself to get hurt even though our human instinct is to protect ourselves from harm and pain. 

The irony is we cannot have healthy relationships if we wear “bulletproof vests” around our emotions and hearts. It’s hard to be a trustworthy person when we place our agenda first, at home or at work, and fail to turn first to the service of those who count on us.

Ask yourself, “Do I take care of myself first, protecting myself from being emotionally vulnerable? Am I guarded because I am mistrustful of others? Do I think everyone has an angle or is trying to play me in some way? Do I get defensive easily? Do I often answer a question with a question or interrogate others because I automatically suspect their first answer isn’t the truth?”

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you have the traits of someone who breaks trust rather than builds it. People who have these traits generally have difficulty trusting others, but the irony is that they then develop behaviors that tell others they are not to be trusted. So the defense mechnisms a person develops to keep from being hurt emotionally robs them of closeness and intimacy in relationships. Because of thisthe forementioned traits are hurtful towards others and come from a place of self-preservation or selfishness. 

To be a trustworthy person it is more than being committed to integrity or choosing not to steal. It is more than showing up on time, paying bills, and not having extra marital acitivities. At work it is more than just showing up and punching a clock reliably. 

Being trustworthy is based upon how others perceive you in the small moments in life. It is the ability to turn towards another, sense what they need, and to listen with your full attention. It is to validate who they are and to be there for them when they need you. 

It’s the little things, such as changing the baby’s diaper, talking to your partner about shift picks before you decide, resisting the urge to yell or name call when stress weakens you, and soothing hurts when they arise. At work, it’s anticipating your partner’s needs, jumping in without being asked and doing the little things to demonstrate you’re a cop worthy of trust, and stepping up for your boss or those who answer to you. 

It is the innumerable small moments in life that define whether we are a person worthy of trust.

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