When discussing how to walk the tightrope of trust, we need to start with the basics. This involves getting to know people in the most general sense. For example, what do they do for work? What are some of their hobbies? What's their family background? You can initiate a conversation about these basic questions by sharing some of your own information first. After sharing your own information, it is time to listen to the other person talk in order to get to know them.
Taking the Next Step
Once we get past the basic information about people, we can start to talk about other things. Here common interests are a good place to start. Initiating with your own thoughts and interests is a good way to lead the way into a deeper discussion. Open-ended questions work well in this phase of friendship building.
Allowing Space for Reciprocity
Gauging how much we are doing the talking in the friendship verses how much the other person is talking is important all throughout the process. But once you get to this "intermediate phase" of building a friendship, it's important to give space to the other person to respond if and when they are ready. Here are some basic facts to keep in mind:
- The more personal the information shared, the riskier it is for a person to share it. People generally have some basic concerns like rejection, betrayal, manipulation, etc.
- The personal history of the person determines the speed of trust. People who have had a lot of abuse, neglect, and/or betrayal are usually slower to trust.
Explaining the Concept of "The Tightrope of Trust"
I like the illustration of walking on a tightrope to explain how we need to balance personal boundaries on one hand with openness on the other. If we lean too much to openness, we can get frequently hurt, used, or abused, etc. If we lean into boundaries too much, these boundaries can become walls that keep others from knowing us instead of boundaries that protect our identity. Just like gravity, leaning too much either way can bring us down.
Some Characteristics of Safe People
So what are some basic characteristics of safe people that we can look for? Here are a few:
- Someone who accepts me or loves me no matter how I am or what I do.
- Someone who gives me the opportunity to grow.
- A person who has a positive influence on me or helps me be responsible and grow.
- Someone who I can be myself when I am around them.
- Someone who helps me love and accept others.
Walking the tightrope of trust involves keeping a good balance between personal boundaries and openness. A practical way to apply this is to start with getting to know the basics of someone and share the basics of yourself. As you progress to more personal discussion, you need to allow people to have time to reciprocate.
Are you getting to know new people? If you are, do you initiate sharing general things about yourself and do you ask the other person general questions about themselves? Do you initiate sharing moderately personal information and do you allow people space to reciprocate with more personal discussion? How well do you understand how to walk the tightrope of tust in general?