Knowing When to Trust Others

The need to know whether or not to trust others is basic to our safety and security. In business, friendship or love, the capacity to differentiate sincerity from falsehood is essential to making effective life choices.

Assessing the trustworthiness of others is challenging. Law enforcement agents have long tried to ascertain the veracity of suspects and though some may be better able to do so than the average person, their accuracy is still poor.

The most effective current technique for assessing truthfulness is achieved by using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which measures changes in levels of blood oxygenation and flow that occur in response to neural activity.

Many people “sense” others’ insincerity or dishonesty. Dr. Richard Frackowiak of University College London explains the relationship between cognition and emotions. He states, “We do not simply base our judgments on reason. The emotional brain responds to an intention to deceive even when the deception involves a trivial action. Our results show that the amygdala, which is part of our emotional core system, is affected when we think someone is trying to deceive us.”

Most people would appreciate having a reliable method of assessing others’ protestation of love. If we could be secure that the words of our beloved truly depict his/her emotions we may feel more secure in our love relationships. Regrettably, proven assessment tools are unavailable as of now. Thus, we resort to hope and trust in the proclamations of love from those we wish would feel about us as we do about them.

Lovers’ strong positive emotions do not have to be equal – just mutually felt. Most lovers need to experience a mutually intense love connection to feel secure in their union. Thus, equal intensity of love is not required for sustaining harmonious relationships. Mutual love, caring behaviors and goodwill towards each other serve as the foundation for healthy unions.

Suspecting a mate’s emotional dishonesty about his/her feelings could be a useful warning signal for one’s self-protection. Yet, these intuitive hunches are so threatening that most people deny having them and intuitively resort to justifications or rationalizations to avoid the pain of rejection.

In life and business the same psychological dynamics occur. We need to trust that others are acting with the same good faith as we do to preserve our emotional and practical stability. Thus, we train ourselves to be less aware of signs that suggest that we may not be in a mutually helpful and supportive relationship. For example, people who have been victims of financial schemes often continue to deny the evidence long after the signs of fraud have surfaced because accepting having been deceived is so emotionally devastating and shaming that our minds conceal the truth to preserve our sanity.

To trust others:

  • Honor your emotional discomfort as a basis for perusing intellectual investigation.
  • Accept that in love relationships the caring does not have to be equal – it only needs to be shared, expressed and mutually felt.









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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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