How Making Mistakes Builds Trust
It’s easy to think that the way to build trust is to be perfect, to be 100% reliable, to be always responsive, and to always behave in a way that pleases others. We get this message a lot growing up.
We receive praise from teachers, parents, and the authorities that our ability obey the rules and live up to certain standards it what makes us worthy of good grades and community awards.
But I’ve discovered again and again that this simply isn’t true. That trust, especially between people, is built not upon perfection, but upon flaws. That true deep and lasting trust comes from making mistakes.
The Mistakes We Make
Lets look at an example. Let’s say I make plans with a friend, but instead of showing up, they bail or they show up late. When this happens I have a choice. I can either choose to get mad or forgive. I can choose to accept my friend’s mistake or berate them for it.
Often in my life I’ve chosen the second option. I chose to get grumpy, to leave curt voice mail messages, and to give my friend lectures on the importance of respecting people’s time. I did it because I felt responsible. I felt like I needed to set boundaries and hold my friends to a high standard. But despite numerous attempts, it never works.
If my friend is chronically late it may make them feel bad, but it probably won’t make them start showing up on time. If my friend is usually punctual, they are likely to go back to being punctual, whether or not I get upset.
On top of that, if I get upset I’m sending a very clear message. I’m saying to my friend, I like you, but only if you show up on time. I care about you, but my care is dependent upon your perfection.
However, if on the other hand I choose to forgive. If I choose to let them know that I was worried, but that I’m happy they arrived safely. I send a very different message. I’m saying I care about you even if you make a mistake. I’m saying I value this friendship more than I value, my right to get upset.
How We Build Deep Lasting Trust
This is what I mean when I say mistakes build trust. One of our biggest fears is that those around them someone will discover how screwed up we are.
Because of this, we spend a lot of time curating our external image. We take the right selfies, fill out impressive Linked In profiles, and post pictures of our amazing vacations. All in an effort to make ourselves look good, kind, and exciting.
We do this so that other people will like and accept us. Nevertheless, the problem is that the image we create isn’t who we really are. Who we are, is much more complex, subtle, imperfect, and full of flaws.
The mistake we make is that we think we have to keep up this image. We think that if we let our masks slip no one will love and accept us. But the truth is just the opposite. It’s only if we try to maintain this perfect image, that we prevent others from loving and accepting who we really are.
Why I Love My Friends
My friends are a perfect example. I love my friends, but it’s not because they’re perfect. In fact, I’m glad I don’t have perfect friends. I see their flaws as part of what makes them real.
On top of that, I know my friends know very well how imperfect I am. They’ve seen me screw up. They’ve heard me make bad jokes, say stupid things, and lose my temper.
But despite that we’ve seen each other at our worst, we still like each other. Despite all of our flaws, we still want to be friends. Moreover, it’s because of this fact, that I really trust my friends.
I trust them because I know that even if I screw up, that even if I make a mistake, and that even if I fall well short of my best self they will stand by me.