Anyone can break a promise. They’re so fragile, after all. Your boss. A friend. A coworker. Even your spouse. But certain people go beyond a chipped vow every now and then. They take your trust for granted entirely. And hey, maybe you give it away.
Start marking up the value on your trust.
It’s a priceless resource. Sure, our ability to trust can endure some real punishment. But not an infinite amount. Everyone who lets us down flakes away at our trust just a little bit. Trust the wrong person too many times, and you’ll be left with dust.
Quick example. My boss turned down my request for a course release so I could finish a book project. I’m pretty sure he did that so he could buy a flat screen TV for his office.
My book was already accepted for publication. So basically, I was asking for something I should’ve gotten last year.
You can imagine the bleeding heart routine he put on. “This is the kind of stuff I lose sleep over,” he told me. “You’re a real asset to us. We don’t want to lose you. What can I do?”
Nothing. The one thing he could’ve done, he didn’t.
A week later I found him watching an Avengers movie on a jumbo flat screen. “Where did that come from?” I asked.
“The dean approved this,” he said. “It makes me more productive. We can definitely get you one, too. Just say the word.”
I’m still not sure what part of this conversation sucks more. The fact that he was lying, or that he honestly thought I was also sitting in my office watching Avengers movies in the middle of the day.
It’s not a bug. It’s a feature. Switch brands.
Sometimes the people in your life have to break a promise. They promised something they shouldn’t have. Something you should’ve known they couldn’t deliver on. Something you should never have expected in the first place. Forgive them.
With others, betrayal isn’t a bug. It’s a feature. They majored in letting you down. And you keep giving them chances.
You acclimate to their absence when you need them most. Forgive them far more than they deserve. On the upside, they give great apologies. Especially when you get angry.
Rethink how many reprieves you give the human sand bags in your life. Not everyone deserves a fifth audition. But how do you know? Maybe one day they’ll come through at just the right moment. They’ll redeem themselves for all the previous times they didn’t come through.
Or maybe they won’t, and you’ll continue hurting yourself. Your career will suffer. And your bank account will shrivel.
You keep making excuses for them. Stop.
Well, maybe he just forgot. Or maybe she’s too busy. Maybe they’ve got something more important going on. These aren’t excuses. They’re facts. They show where you stand in their priority list.
My university is planning another expensive festival, with everything from circus clowns to street musicians. Meanwhile, I can’t seem to find money for anything these days. Dry erase markers? Nah…
But balloon animals… Hey, they’re crucial.
You constantly second-guess yourself around them. Quit.
You feel a little pissed off about something they said or did. Your’e not fuming. But something’s off. You think they need to step up. But you don’t want to cause trouble. So you keep everything to yourself.
Look, you should have the talk with them. Seriously, the talk. Tell them what you need, and what they’re not doing.
Otherwise, nothing will change. You might be avoiding the problem because you know how they’ll react. And it will just confirm what you already knew but didn’t want to admit. You can’t trust them.
Some of my exes let me make excuses for them, because neither of us wanted to admit they didn’t deserve my trust anymore. It wasn’t their fault they were talking to an old girlfriend on the phone everyday. Maybe it was mine, for not doing enough to keep them interested.
You keep thinking, “Maybe I should try harder.” You shouldn’t.
You’re doing enough. They’re not. They keep saying they’ll up their game. But they don’t. Two commitments crumble. Three.
They’re not even difficult things. Showing up on time. Telling the truth. Funding a small project. Getting some paperwork pushed through. Picking up the kids. Doing some laundry. Cooking their own meals.
Things the rest of us put on autopilot.
When you start putting someone’s world on your shoulders, that’s when you know it’s time to stop trusting them. You feel like they can’t do anything you ask, not even small tasks, and that somehow makes you feel guilty. You feel like doing everything yourself is the solution.
Sure, you might have to do everything yourself. But that doesn’t mean they can keep the car keys to your trust. Take them back.
You turn yourself into origami. Unfold.
Some of us have a bad habit of bending ourselves fifteen ways to make life easier for everyone else. We turn into a paper crane. Beautiful. But hopelessly contorted. Certain people take advantage.
They’ll have you as a paper crane all day, all night.
Ask yourself. What do these people ever contribute to your life? Think about the number of times you’ve asked for something. The times they’ve said yes, then later changed their mind. You are scarred with fold lines, while they remain smooth and uncreased.
You have no choice but to trust them. So pretend.
You can’t exactly write your bosses an email explaining why you can’t trust them anymore. That kind of move can get you fired.
But you can make an internal decision to stop trusting them. They won’t even know, because they’re too busy peacocking.
I’ve reached a point where I know better than to expect reimbursement for my conference trips. I know my projects won’t get funded, even if someone offers me money. My bosses are going to spend all our cash on balloon animals and flat screen TVs for their own offices.
You have to trust new people. Start small.
Some of us know what deep betrayal feels like. Backstabbing friends. Absconding wives and husbands. Deadbeat dads. Maybe our own parents even screwed us over in unimaginable ways.
And yet, our trust endures. It has to. You really can’t survive this world without trust in someone.
If you’ve been deeply hurt, you shouldn’t expect yourself to turn right around and hand your complete trust in someone else. Trust yourself for a while. You know what you need better than anyone.
Trust isn’t all or nothing.
We tend to think of abstract trust as one big, shining orb. That’s simply not how it works. You have to trust people on a scale.
You trust different people with different things. When you have to trust in someone you’d rather not, then make a backup plan. They might not deliver, so don’t let them wreck your life.
New people deserve a chance to earn your trust. But don’t give the whole thing to them at once.
Not many people can handle your full trust all at once. Treat them like a video game character. Give them little quests. If they really want to earn your full trust, they won’t mind. They’ll give you little quests, too.
Don’t banish someone for letting you down once. Let them struggle their way back. But if they keep failing, don’t make excuses for them. Don’t try harder. Don’t second guess yourself.
Don’t fold yourself up into a crane.
Trust is more than an emotion. When someone lets you down, they’ve done more than hurt your feelings. They’ve spent your resources. They’ve wasted your time. Worse, they’ve made it just a little harder to trust the next person. Don’t keep unreliable human sand bags in your life.
You might have to pretend you trust certain bosses and coworkers, but don’t trick yourself into give out your real trust. Treat your actual trust like a bag of diamonds. Because it is. It’s the most precious thing you own.