By Mia Barnes
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Other people’s perceptions of your trustworthiness matter. It impacts how far you go in your career and how secure your friendships and romantic unions become.
To act with integrity, you need a secure sense of who you are and what you stand for. You also need the savvy to evaluate each situation and determine how forthright you should be with various audiences. Here are six tips for how to become a more trustworthy person.
1. Reflect on What Triggers Lies
People lie for various reasons — and not all of them involve nefarious intent. For instance, you might rave over your BFF’s new haircut, even if you secretly dislike pixie bobs.
You might have another reason for withholding the full truth in certain situations, such as the workplace. For example, those with disabilities often conceal the full extent of their condition from their employer. Although anti-discrimination laws exist, conflicts with right-to-work laws can leave this population uniquely vulnerable. Likewise, employees suffering financial hardship might conceal their struggles to avoid appearing irresponsible with money, even though they might have legitimate reasons for their cash crunch.
However, other times, you withhold the truth out of guilt or shame. For example, those who abuse substances might hide how much they use. Such lies pose dangers for everyone. Performing activities like driving when under the influence can result in injury and death. Furthermore, concealing alcohol and drug use prevents people from getting the help they need.
When you feel tempted to obscure or withhold the truth, ask yourself why. Is it for a noble reason, such as saving your friendship or keeping your job? Or are you doing so because you fear the shame you would face if caught? If the answer is the latter, honesty is the best policy.
2. Under-Promise and Over-Deliver
You might develop a less-than-trustworthy reputation if you’re too eager to please. It’s natural to exaggerate your abilities when you want to wow your boss or potential romantic interest. However, doing so could set people up for disappointment — and the impression that they can’t rely on you to do what you say.
Instead, underestimate your abilities, but not by too much. Forecasting that it will take a week to complete a project, then delivering it in a few hours, can seem every bit as sketchy as requesting additional time right before the deadline hits.
Of course, life happens, and you can’t predict every timeline with precision certainty. That’s where savvy communication skills come into play.
You don’t owe your employer your life story, for example. However, it’s wise to clue them in if circumstances arise that may affect your performance, such as a serious illness in your family, moving or other disruptive circumstances. Giving a heads up is especially crucial in today’s world of telework, where your boss may not be able to casually swing by your desk to learn that your family is expecting a baby.
3. Learn to Say No
This tip coincides somewhat with the last one. Making a promise you fail to deliver on at all is fatal to other people’s impression of your integrity. If you can’t comfortably do something, it’s better to decline upfront than tackle something you lack the know-how, time or desire to do.
You don’t have to become a drill sergeant when enforcing boundaries. Feel free to offer compromises. For example, perhaps you can’t afford the expense of becoming a member of your friend’s wedding party, but you can attend the ceremony — and bring a gift.
4. Choose Your Confidants Carefully
Remember Colonel Nathan Jessup’s most famous line in “A Few Good Men” — “you can’t handle the truth?” Some people, for whatever reason, can’t. These folks might invalidate and minimize your experiences when you try to share or outright deny your reality and gaslight you.
Remember, niceness doesn’t necessarily equate to trustworthiness. Toxic positivity is that which denies your reality, insisting that everything is rainbows and butterflies when your perception tells you something far different. It’s one thing for your friends to help you look on the bright side. However, it’s okay to use tact around those who react to your news of a miscarriage or housing loss with, “well, it could be worse,” — maybe so, but that dismissive attitude can sting when you’re hurting.
Does that mean you should stick to the Negative Nancies of the world for venting your true feelings? Not necessarily. At best, they could reinforce your dismal worldview. At worst, you could end up trauma bonding and get sucked into a toxic relationship.
Your best bet for remaining authentic is to divulge your innermost thoughts only to those who have earned your trust through their behavior. Sharing too much with the wrong people can make you withdraw and become less likely to act like your true self, as you feel like others will always criticize what you say. It’s okay to refrain from mentioning things to people who don’t need to know the information and are likely to hurt you with it.
5. Align Your Actions With Your Values
Perhaps the ultimate tip for becoming a more trustworthy person is to align your actions with your values. Of course, this step requires you to define what matters to you.
For example, do you stop to pick up litter when you pass it by on a walk or expect cleanup crews to get it? If one of your core values is environmental stewardship, it’s a no-brainer to grab that discarded can and deposit it in the nearest recycling bin.
6. Be Consistent
Ultimately, other people judge you based on what you do, not what you say. It makes sense. Anyone can claim to be a hard worker, for example. However, the best way to make your boss believe it is to complete your given tasks on time, asking for help when necessary.
People do change over time. However, you should strive for consistency as much as possible. The best brands succeed because people can depend on the manufacturer to deliver a certain product quality. You, too, can achieve more by doing what you say you will when you commit to it. When people look to you as trustworthy, you’re given more responsibility and opportunities for success.
How to Become a More Trustworthy Person
It’s challenging to change other people’s perceptions of you. However, being trustworthy helps you achieve more in your career and personal life.
Developing this trait means doing a deep dive into who you are and what matters to you. Then, communicate clearly and avoid making promises you can’t keep. Choose your confidants with equal care and enjoy the freedom that comes with living authentically.
About the author:
Mia Barnes is an online journalist and Editor in Chief at Body + Mind.