Have you ever told someone something important to you in confidence, only to find out they told someone else?
Are there people in your life you are hesitant or afraid to share your truth with because you know you’ll be judged?
In this episode, we are talking about emotional trustworthiness, how to spot it in others, how to maintain it in your relationships, and how to become more emotionally trustworthy yourself!
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
If you have ever been in a relationship where you consistently feel the other person doesn’t understand you, like they might betray you, or like you need to put up a front for protection, you know how exhausting it can be.
An emotionally trustworthy relationship is one in which you feel safe to be seen, heard, and known.
You feel comfortable talking true and sharing yourself in a real way without the fear of reprisal or judgment. You can be vulnerable and honest about your weaknesses and your strengths. Inside an emotionally trustworthy relationship, you feel valued and you know what you feel and think matters to the other person.
Emotional trust and safety are the foundation for the deepest, healthiest relationships. When relationships lack these elements, it can be difficult to develop true intimacy because we are not able to be our true selves. Lack of trust and safety can put us into the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode, and those defensive responses block authentic connection.
What can you do to create and attract emotionally trustworthy relationships? And how can you spot someone who isn’t trustworthy? Let’s dive in!
> Better Boundaries
I believe healthy boundaries are the bridges to amazing relationships and deeper intimacy. Put simply, your boundaries are built on what is and what isn’t OK with you. They are your preferences, limits, and deal-breakers. Having healthy boundaries means knowing yourself, what’s important to you, and having the ability to communicate those things directly and transparently when you so choose.
Effectively communicating and upholding your boundaries, tends to weed out people who are emotionally untrustworthy. Pay attention, if you have expressed a boundary or set a limit with someone and they dismiss, ignore, try to talk you out of it, or agree and then outright violate your boundary because that is a behavioral red flag!
> Build Intimacy + Trust Over Time
Recognize there is no such thing as instant intimacy. Mindfully building deep relationships means sharing information about ourselves incrementally and gradually over time- and only as people reveal themselves to be emotionally trustworthy.
What I see often with my clients, in my courses and community is people feeling like they’ve made a real heart connection with someone and then wanting to tell them all their deepest darkest experiences too early on. Have you ever had that experience only to wake up the next morning like, “Ug…what did I do?!” That’s a vulnerability hangover.
Slow and steady definitely wins the healthy intimacy race (so to speak).
> Keep Confidence Sacred + Expect it in Return
Creating emotionally trustworthy relationships requires being trustworthy! When people tell you something in confidence, keep it in confidence. This means not sharing that info with anyone else unless you have their permission.
Don’t tell someone you just met something you don’t want anyone else to know (see above ;).
Be wary of triangulation. It is a common way human beings connect, but honestly, it damages trust. Triangulation looks like talking to someone else about someone who is not involved in the conversation. It’s a form of gossip and it’s unhealthy, so if someone frequently tries to pull you into a triangulation, that is a sign they are emotionally untrustworthy- and that they are probably talking about YOU to someone else!
> Never Say the Meanest Thing
Many of us learned how to fight dirty when we were growing up which can include saying the meanest thing we can think of when things get heated. If you are committed to emotional trustworthiness, time to break this cycle of modeled behavior.
No matter how angry you get, saying the meanest thing can emotionally cripple the other person and devastate trust. Take responsibility for your words and for the relationship and steer clear of this habit. It is possible to build skills to express your anger in a healthy way. If you’re the object of someone saying the meanest thing to you, set your boundary. If the other person continues to violate your limit, you might be dealing with a boundary destroyer.
> Don’t Use Other’s Vulnerabilities Against Them
This goes hand in hand with keeping someone’s confidence. Resist using something vulnerable a person shared with you against them in an argument. Being a therapist for 25 years, I can tell you this is something people do often in anger. But throwing something in someone’s face or mocking them about it when you are angry is very damaging to trust.
If this has ever happened to you, you know how painful it can be and it is a big red flag. That person is not emotionally trustworthy and it isn’t safe to be vulnerable with them.
> Do What You Say You’re Going to Do (Be Impeccable with Your Word)
When someone is emotionally trustworthy, you can trust they will do what they say they are going to do. And if something changes and they can’t, they will be honest and tell you they can’t.
If there is someone in your life who makes a lot of promises but doesn’t come through on them, take note. How does it make you feel knowing you can’t count on them? You might still love and care for them, but you might want to manage your own expectations. Especially if they suffer from the People-Pleasing Syndrome, they might have a compulsion to say yes to everything, but then back out later. If this is you (and it might be), work on improving your boundary skills and saying no when you need to.
When someone’s actions don’t match their words, they may just not be capable of meeting your needs, even if they want to. It’s still a red flag. Don’t let those things slide. If someone’s words and actions don’t match, there is a lack of integrity there and it’s OK to call them out on it. (As long as doing so will not put you in danger of being abused.) There’s a chance they could course correct, but if they are a repeat offender, be aware.
> Learn to Listen in a Non-Judgemental Way
Inside an emotionally trustworthy relationship, there is a reciprocity of non-judgemental listening. You are both able to listen and hold space for the other person without having to jump in and problem solve or try to fix it right away.
This is where boundary language comes in. When you’re coming to your person after a bad day or with an issue, you can start by telling them exactly what you need. Make a simple request like, “What I need right now is a compassionate ear. I’m not seeking input or looking for solutions. I just appreciate you being here holding space for me.”
> Be Willing to Make Yourself Appropriately Vulnerable
Is there someone in your life who asks you a million personal questions, but somehow you never seem to get around to them? It doesn’t feel great when there isn’t mutuality in a relationship.
In my twenties, I knew someone who was like an investigative journalist collecting data every time we got together. The next time I would see her, she would bring up something painful I had told her before- I’ll be honest, it kinda felt like getting punched in the face! There was an imbalance of vulnerability because she never seemed to get around to sharing anything deep or personal with me about herself. It is no coincidence that she is no longer in my life.
Think through your relationships. Is there a balance of vulnerability? Are you the person who allows people to dump on you? Or are you the person steering clear of divulging anything and solely focusing on someone else?
> Check Words + Body Language
Just like words and actions, body language should be in alignment with what you and others are saying. So if someone is saying, “It’s fine,” but their body language is telling a different story, that is untrustworthy behavior, because they are not talking true. They might say they’re ok, but then they slam a door or roll their eyes or give you the silent treatment. People who are emotionally trustworthy clearly and directly communicate how they are truly feeling.
I used to be the queen of passive-aggressive communication, so if this is you, you’re not alone. Begin to raise your awareness of where, when, and with whom in your life, your words are out of alignment with your body language. Take some time and explore why that might be?
> Are You Walking on Eggshells?
If you feel like you are walking on eggshells in any relationship, there is a lack of emotional safety and trust somewhere. You wouldn’t feel that way if you felt safe.
It could be coming from them or it could be coming from you, or both. It is valuable to take a closer look at that relationship dynamic. Could you be having an emotional transference? That means you are having a response or reaction to something or someone in the present that is really based on your experiences in the past. Or is your feeling coming from direct experience with this person?
The feeling of walking on eggshells is just exhausting and so stressful. If the person you are feeling this with checks any of the other boxes of being emotionally untrustworthy, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.
You can grab your emotionally trustworthy checklist right here.
You deserve emotionally trustworthy relationships where you feel safe, held, seen, and known. I hope this added value to your life and if it did, please share it with the people in your world! I’m always up for keeping the conversation going so feel free to drop me a comment or q here or over on Instagram @terricole.
I hope you have an amazing week and as always, take care of you.
This is a very good topic to consider. I needed the awareness of what is and isn't trustworthy emotional behavior. My own over promising and under delivering has made a sister relationship injured. It's that auto yes that still happens. And I need to stop triangulation in same scenario, sisters. We act like we're trying to win points with one or the other. Not very loving or mature 😕. Thanks Teri!
So true! And I’m so glad this topic resonated for you <3 Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for being here!
You are dead on as usual. I’ve been thinking about this as I get older and only allowing healthy people into my life as much as I can. I would rather have fewer friends but healthier ones that don’t create stress and recreate all my childhood trauma.
Yes! So true. Thank you for sharing this wisdom and for being here <3
Wonderful thoughts. Drs Cloud and Townsend's book Safe People opened my eyes to a lot of this. I realized that I not only had a lack of safe people in my life, but that I was in some ways also an unsafe person. Grateful for the opportunity to grow, and these are excellent reminders!
Thank you for sharing, Judy! Happy you’re here <3