At my last hair appointment, a lady came into the salon with an extra-large suitcase and asked if she could use the toilet facilities, explaining that the lift was broken at the train station and she was unable to access the platform where the toilets were located. As she was unable to carry her heavy suitcase up and down the stairs and, due to security procedures, the staff at the station were unable to ‘mind’ her suitcase, so she was left with no alternative but to find other facilities. As my hairdresser is adjacent to the train station, her salon was a convenient alternative. This lady was hopeful of a friendly salon owner who’d allow her use of the facilities and my hairdresser was very accommodating. When she asked my hairdresser to ‘mind’ her suitcase she was showing signs of ‘trusting’, and my hairdresser fully empathised with her needs, agreed to assist and therefore showed signs of being ‘trustworthy’.

This made me realise that trust is a crucial component in our everyday lives. It helps us seek what we need in life so that we may feel safe, both physically and emotionally. Trust helps cement our relationships, enables us to live and work harmoniously with others, fit in, and contribute towards society. Neuroscience tells us that our brain rewards us when we trust. It also rewards us when we’re doing right by others. It helps if we can do both in life, trust and be trustworthy.

Trust is one of the first emotional bonds we develop to help us navigate our way through life. Right from birth, we seek out patterns of consistency that help us interpret the world around us. Our ability to trust is very much dependent on the responses we receive in our formative years from our parents or caregivers. If our childhood has taught us the giving and receiving of trust, then we’re likely to develop a healthy sense of trust and also the ability to recognise signs of distrust. If, however, our early life taught us that we can’t trust others, then we’re less likely to have any value of trust. When we don’t develop a sense of trust, we’re then less likely to be able to recognise signs of distrust.

According to Professor Anne Böckler-Raettig at the Institute of Psychology in Würzburg, ‘we need trust to establish signs of distrust’. When we’re unable to trust we’re blocked to other people’s feelings and emotions, we’re unable to recognise signs of distrust and, as a result, we’re less capable or less willing to repair any trust issues in a relationship.

Signs of distrust can be glaringly obvious; for example, if your neighbour discloses personal information about another neighbour, you’d be less likely to confide in that person and trust they’d keep your confidence. Sometimes signs of distrust are less obvious. People can be very deceitful, for example, if they’re having an affair or embezzling money etc.

According to science, we make a decision to trust someone within a millisecond of meeting them and this trust is mainly based on a person’s facial features, mostly their eyes and mouth. Science also says there’s no evidence to suggest that just because someone looks trustworthy means that they are.

Professor Böckler-Raettig explains that ‘we base our trust of people on how they look, how authoritative or competent they appear, and on their reputation’. If a person says they’re a doctor, solicitor, or teacher, then we tend to think – as they’re in positions of authority – they must be trustworthy. But does the fact that someone holds a position of authority really mean they’re honest?

Another aspect we consider when deciding to trust someone is their reputation. In today’s society, we tend to base our trust in ‘reviews’ and ‘testimonials’. Listening to another person’s opinion creates a belief and an expectation based on their personal experiences.  These opinions then influence whether we perceive someone to be trustworthy or not. This is evidenced in Airbnb bookings. We’re happy to sleep in total strangers’ homes based on the reviews of other people, putting our complete trust in their opinions and ratings.

While trust is important, sometimes it’s difficult for us to trust, especially so when faced with meeting new people and forming new relationships or partnerships. However, trust is vital in our long term partnerships and relationships. It isn’t something you just switch on, it’s an ongoing development and building of trust between us and others. Scientific research says we can measure trust as an ‘investment’ of time, effort, (or even money as in business relationships).

We need trust to establish, maintain and repair our relationships. Trust empowers us, and we can empower others by trusting them. Science shows that forgiveness is the key to maintaining trust in relationships, suggesting we learn to give people a second chance. To do this it’s necessary to understand the other person’s perspective. When we want to reinstate trust, we need to ‘invest’ in the person or the relationship again. There’s a lot of meaning in the saying ‘to give someone a second chance’.  But to gain a ‘second chance’, we must be willing to regain that trust by repairing the relationship and developing a belief in their reputation.

Trusting in our own inner guidance is also very important. And it helps to remember we have people in our lives for a ‘reason’, a ‘season’, or ‘life’. Sometimes, we just need to move on from a relationship and trust that we’ll learn and grow through the experience.

My advice is, learn to trust your instinct. It will never let you down!