Building Trust in Family Relationships
Have you ever wondered how to build trust in your family relationships? The Gottman Institute suggests five ways to build trust with your spouse. I believe those same five suggestions can build trust within your family. I have to warn you though…these suggestions appear small, even insignificant on the surface. They do not call for any flourishing gesture or dramatic, flamboyant action that suddenly creates a deep bond of trust between family members. There is no magic pill for building trust. No, these suggestions are subtle, but powerful, actions and attitudes that, when practiced daily, have a profound impact on trust in a family. Let me share each suggestion along with a brief explanation.
· Make trustworthiness a priority in your relationship. As with all relationship building principles, start with yourself. Make it a priority to become a trustworthy person, a person others can trust. Develop your reputation as a person of honesty, integrity, and reliability. Follow through on your promises. Make your word “as good as gold.” Remain reliable in your actions and your affections. Live a lifestyle that is consistent with your honest speech. To develop a trusting relationship, become a trustworthy person.
· Act to maximize each of your family members’ well-being. Do not look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of your spouse and family. Be considerate of their needs and desires. Look to increase their sense of security in relationship to you. Spend time with them. Discover their interests and create opportunities for them to grow in those areas of interest. Encourage their strengths. Become their Michelangelo—the person who brings out their best and encourages them to grow stronger in their “true self” every day.
· Realize that trust is built and strengthened by small positive moments. You do not have to create the big, dramatic event to build trust or precious memories. The small, enjoyable, and positive moments build the greatest memories and the most enduring trust. Share little adventures. Play together. Show empathy. Learn things together. Share meals. Laugh together. Go for walks. When the negative emotions associated with disagreements and minor conflicts arise, you will have built a foundation that allows you to tune into the other person and share yourself. As you share yourself during conflict and then resolve conflict, trust grows exponentially.
· Avoid negative comparisons. Comparisons contaminate trusting relationships. They cause trust to decay, create doubt about my value in the other person’s eyes, and diminish my sense of being accepted unconditionally. Comparisons create competition, bitterness, and resentment. Instead of comparing family members, practice unconditional acceptance. Each person has their own unique personality, strengths, and interests. Accept each person’s uniqueness, their own “bent.” Acknowledge that uniqueness and discover how those unique attributes contribute to their happiness, strengthen your family, and supplies a needed resource to those around them.
· Cherish each of your family members’ positive qualities. Actively seek out the positive qualities and characteristics that you admire in your family members. Acknowledge those positive traits. Even when family members do things that you find irritating, step back and look for the positive aspect of that behavior or action. Then, take time to acknowledge that positive quality before discussing ways you can both work to reduce the irritation. Acknowledge positive attributes in each family member every day. Nurture a daily practice of gratitude for everything your family members provide and offer to you, to your relationship, and to your family. Keep your focus on what you admire in your family.
Five suggestions for building trust in family relationships. Nothing dramatic or hard-core, just small actions and words that, when practiced daily, result in growing trust.