Understanding Trust: Types and Levels

Discover Trust Types and Levels in Relationships: Insights from 'Think Like a Monk' by Jay Shetty.

Understanding Trust: Types and Levels
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Trust is an essential component of all human relations. In the book “Think Like a Monk” Jay Shetty analyzes the trust part very well. There is no new information. It is just well structured. I kind of knew all that before reading it, and I am sure you will also feel that way. But, after reading that structured information, my view changed about trusting people.

What do we mean by trust? It is an expectation from other humans. We expect someone to be honest with us. We expect them to have our best interests in their mind. But the expectations should be different for different people. In the book, Jay mentioned four characteristics of any relation. We can call them types of trust as well.

Competence: We trust some people for advice in some specific area where they are known experts. I can trust my Ph.D. advisors for advice related to my career in academics. I can trust a financial advisor to make a diversified investment portfolio.

Care: We trust some people because we know they care about us. For example, our parents. They care about our overall well-being and not just our success.

Character: Some people have a very high moral compass. We share some values with them. We seek their advice when we are not sure if we are taking the right steps.

Consistency: Some people are just there for us. Whenever we need them. They may not have any expertise, deep care, or character. But they are present and reliable.

Most people in our lives satisfy multiple of these characteristics. But they do not hold a sign saying which ones they satisfy. It is our job to identify them. We trust different people for different characteristics and identifying that helps with managing our expectations from them. For example, I would not expect financial advice from my mother. Similarly, we fulfill different roles in other people’s lives. It is okay if they don’t trust us for certain parts of their lives.

These parts have more subtypes. There are many areas for competency. Many types of care. Etc. It should be clear that no one person can satisfy all those characteristics. This becomes relevant, especially when we look for a life partner. We must identify what we are looking for in such relations.

When it comes to trust, we are often on extreme ends. We either trust someone completely or do not trust them at all. We either trust too many people or no one. When someone important betrays us, our trust in others also takes a blow. Identifying different levels of trust can help us solve this problem.

There are many signs for each level. We should look for these signs and trust people based on the observed signs. This way, we maintain a balanced level of trust in our relations.

Neutral: This is the level of trust we should have when we meet someone. They might have positive qualities such as ‘good looks’, ‘charming personality’, or ‘fun to be around’. But, these are not merits of trust. There is no reason to trust this person yet. Putting them on higher levels might be harmful to us as well as to them.

Contractual: This is the next level of trust. We have some basic expectations. For example, I pay the bill for food now, and if you promise to pay me later, I trust you. If I make a plan, I trust you to show up. We do basic things and expect the other person to do their part. It is more like, ‘I scratch your back, and you scratch mine’.

Mutual: This is a slightly higher level of trust. Here we do good things for the other person and expect them to do good things for us. The difference from the contractual level is that there is no timeline involved. I do a favor for you in the hope that you will do the same someday when I need a favor. This may not be immediate.

Pure: This is the highest level of trust. We do good things without any expectations from the other person.

The relation is more satisfactory at higher levels of trust. But, be careful while putting people at higher levels, as that can easily lead to trust violations. No one should be promoted to higher levels without them showing the signs, no matter how desperately we want them at higher levels.

With that said, we should also keep in mind that we might be at different levels of trust in other people’s lives. It is wrong to expect someone to trust us when we have not given them signs.

Basically, we should identify the types and levels of trust for each relationship. Slowly, we should try to move the relationship to a higher level of trust by showing signs and giving the other person a chance to show signs. The goal is to maintain the trust expectations properly.

As I said at the beginning, there was no new information. It is just well structured. This helps us to be mindful and intentional in our relationships. I hope this was helpful.

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