How To Trust Other People And Should I?

I was asked this question recently;

How do you trust people fully and how can you tell ‘that someone special’ is telling you the truth when you live miles away from each other and people in day to day life are not taking you for a ride?

The blunt truth is that you can’t.  It is very rare for someone to live in our world and not be cheated on or taken advantage of.

In a perfect world, everyone would feel their needs sufficiently met that they would not seek to gain advantage at the expense of others.

However, the reality of life is such that, there are many, many people who cannot even trust themselves let alone others.   And then there are some people who for one reason or another just can’t help but cheat, manipulate and connive.  In the course of your life you will come across many people like this.  But they don’t come with Cheat, Liar or Swindler branded into them, so what do you do?

photo credit: diegodacal

To Live Or Not To Live?  That Is The Question.

You can do what some people do, which is to become ever vigilent to ensure that they are never treated like a Sucker.

The problem with this is that they become so closed off to everyone, that they never really live.  They are so suspicious that they lose the opportunities that would help them to achieve their dreams.  To get the things you really want in life;

  • love,
  • respect,
  • fulfilment,
  • belonging,

and so on, you have to take risks.  Failing to take those risks protects you from the sting of failure, humiliation and embarassment, but it also prevents you from sowing the seeds of growth and progress and thus from reaping the harvest.

There is an interesting parallel that can demonstrate your options open to you in the financial investment community.  In life we have a certain amount of time to invest.  Financial investors have money to invest.

We can spend it in an enormous variety of ways that will produce a huge variation in returns.  We can invest our time in worrying, which will bring us a return of anxiety.  We can spend it on hedonistic pleasures which will bring us an immediate hit of short lived pleasure, but possibly bigger problems later.  We can invest it in projects that will bring us a return of more time later.

In the financial world there are individuals and institutions that have lots of money.  Now one of the problems of having lots of money is that you have the worry of losing it.  Leave it lying around your house and thieves will steal it.  Leave it in a bank and you have the worry of the bank going under with it.  Invest it in shares or bonds and there is the potential risk of losing it all.

Bar Graph
photo credit: kevinzhengli

Traditionally the safest bet has been to place your money in a bank.  However it’s also the lowest return.  Stocks and shares can be hugely rewarding and can multiply the value of your investment.  Or they can lose everything.  However, what many Investors have found, is that if you invest in many high risk/return projects the huge returns more than pay for your losses.

I’m far from an expert on finance, but I believe the current and previous boom and recession were exacerbated by an abuse of this insight.  In the 80’s Michael Milken recognised that high yield (more commonly known as junk) bonds brought such a huge return when they paid off that the losses of the failures were a relatively small price to pay.  Of ten investments, maybe five or even six will fail, but the four that succeed bring so much money in, that you still get more money overall.  His theory paid off hugely.  More recently the Sub-prime mortgage loans is built along the same lines.

The problem with these was not the basic formula, but the exact opposite.  They worked too well.

You see, there is an inherent problem with success.  Once something like this works, everyone jumps in believing it’s a sure thing.  And as so much money flowed in to be invested, the net had to be spread to more speculative investments.  And so eventually money gets thrown into projects that never had a hope of working.  Then it all collapses, until it starts again, riding the wave of the next big promise.

Of course, another option is to place your money in a managed fund and have an Expert manage your risk for you.  The trouble is that you are then placing your investment in someone else’s judgement, who will never care as much for it as you will.  Also they are stuck between wanting a good return, yet petrified of losing the lot.  I once read somewhere that research had found that randomly picking an investment by sticking a pin on a stock had equalled the return from a managed fund.

Emotional Health Is The Critical Factor In Life

The best Investors have always been those that have invested in what they knew.  Andrew Carnegie was once asked whether he recommended diversification.  He advised to ‘put all your eggs in one basket – and then watch the basket.’  Warren Buffet has become a legendary Investor because he has a refined ability to identify what will make money in the future and trust his judgement regardless of all the noise about him.

So, having digressed, what is the lesson we can learn from this?

The quality of your life depends on your emotional experience of life.  It doesn’t matter what we do, if we do it with a negative attitude and emotional state.  I’m sure you’ve noticed people who are on the most luxurious cruises, in the most beautiful of physical surroundings, have everything people dream of, yet still moan and are unable to enjoy the experience.

The physical world that we see about us and our capability to interact with it successfully is determined by our emotional state.

Look at Dieter’s as an example.  When they try to diet without being emotionally ready, they struggle enormously.  If they do succeed, it is with great exertion of willpower.  And this is so exhausting to maintain that it can only last for so long  before the Individual will relapse.

photo credit: sansreproache

But someone who achieves the emotional readiness to change their eating habits can watch the pounds fall off without even seeming to try.  That’s because they don’t need food for comfort.  And they aren’t struggling to fight against their emotional reality.

It’s the same thing for someone who want’s to be more organised.  No system will work, or not without an exhausting level of discipline, until they are emotionally ready to embrace it.

And of course it’s the same for anything.  Changing the nature of a relationship.  Being more tolerant, patient or less angry.  Whatever you want to do, you have to be ready for emotionally first or all the effort in the world will burn you out.

In essence, what I’m saying is that the only thing that really matters in our life, is our emotional experience.  It’s the determining factor of how you will judge the quality of your life.  The physical world of actions and reactions that we see about us happens first in the emotional world.  So therefore make your priority your emotional health.

This is a fundamental shift from the default view of life which is about accumulating assets.

The Flawed Dream

The typical vision of a happy and successful life goes something like this;

You’ll work hard, develop certain skills and succeed in a career.  This brings you financial success and security.  You can then buy your ideal home, nice cars and have enjoyable hobbies and holidays without worrying.  Alongside this you’ll search through the haystack of people to find the ideal one for you and so meet Miss or Mr Right.  You’ll fall in love, want to spend the rest of your life together and extend your love into a family.  These will grow up, follow the same path as you and produce Grandchildren.  And you’ll all live happily ever after.

Merry Christmas!
photo credit: timsamoff

This vision is essentially based on the idea that you invest in assets that accumulate in value.  So you invest in developing skills that bring a return in financial success.  We then have the asset of money that brings us freedom from worry.  We invest in a relationship, so that we have that asset which we can love, will love us, produce children that will love us, and care for us if we are sick.

But it’s a flawed vision.  Because it’s based on a world that doesn’t change.  You can develop skills that will be obsolete tomorrow.  People change.  The one who loved you yesterday, may no longer love you tomorrow for reasons that have nothing to do with you.

It is natural for people to want Friends to enjoy times with.  But at the root of many friendships is a reciprocal idea of ‘being there’ if the other needs them.  A support network has become one of those buzz phrases that people and especially Psychologist’s talk about.  Every time I hear the phrase, something deep inside me just wants to scream ‘No’ at the idea.

Because the whole notion is based on you not being strong or resourceful enough to deal with stuff on your own.  It looks at the world as being a hard, cruel place that will batter your dreams and beat you down.  And so you need other people to emotionally prop you up.  But what often happens is that as these Friends console you and agree how unfair things are, they do make you feel better.

What they have done though is essentially told you that you don’t need to change and instead created the idea that other people, situations and ultimately the world is to blame.  So you go on without learning from your experience, just a little more cynical, world weary and insecure.

I accept that I’m a little weird, but I have never, ever needed anyone else to resolve a problem.  And I think that is mainly due to my having almost no fixed beliefs.  When things haven’t worked out I recognised that there was something flawed about either what I was aiming for or the way I was going about achieving it.  And so I took the knocks as a guidance to course correct.

The Only Guidance You Will Ever Need

Life is brutally honest.  If you’re living with flawed notions it will expose them.  And if you hold onto those notions dearly, it will crush you.  But if you hold onto nothing, you can ride the wave.

Furthermore, we don’t worry because of situations.  We worry because of emotional insecurity.  So removing the situation that we might have worried about, just changes what we worry about.

I suggest that since it is your emotional experience of life that matters more than the physical experience, you should invest in emotional assets, rather than physical assets.

Let every experience, every interaction create a database of memories and a rich depth of emotional tapestry that build your life into something more than it was before.  Let Life guide you to emotional security.  A place where you need nothing from anyone, yet you can come together with others to enhance the good times.

world mosaic: a tribute to flickr portraits
photo credit: pardeshi

In this light, if you find that someone has cheated on you, or taken advantage of you, then it is probably the end of your relationship with that person.  But the asset was not the person or the relationship, but the emotional experiences and the insights that gave you to better control the way you feel and so your experience of life.  And you still have them.  Indeed this experience is just another one of them.

The basis of all our relationships should be to enhance each other’s lives.

My wife and I are almost complete opposites.  My temperament is very stable, whereas she has a much wider emotional range.  Over time, having been through the ‘let’s fix these emotional dips’ I realised that it was none of my business and let them run their course.  But what I noticed was that it was as if we became more distant in those times.

After observing this I thought about it and realised that I only wanted to interact with my wife, or anyone else for that matter, when they were happy and fun or those that really want to reach that emotional state and I can in some way help.

My Philosophy On Relationships

If you are happy, in a positive emotional state and looking to have fun, then it’s time to meet and interact with others.

If you are hurt and unhappy, then your interactions aren’t going to be as enjoyable for either side.  It’s when people are unhappy that they lash out or get involved in petty disputes.  Think about it, when have you ever been happy and wanted to hurt another in any way?

Yet, I’ll bet there have been many times when you have been hurt by another that your thoughts turned to revenge?

Relationship problems are really about people interacting whilst they are personally unhappy.  And so their personal issue becomes also a relationship issue.

If you feel negative emotionally, it’s time for some serious introspection and to work out where and what the problem is and how you are going to fix it.  Personally I need to do this alone.  Of course, I understand that some people do need to talk in order to work out their thoughts and feelings.  But do this where the people you are interacting with enjoy the process.

You see, the fact that you’re reading this, means that you are pro-actively building a stronger emotional base.  You’ve come to a place where everyone is focused on understanding what it takes to live a happier and less stressful life. Personally, I love interacting with people who are unhappy, but genuinely seeking happiness.  Because I need more situations than my own life brings to understand life at a deeper level.  So here and places that are focused on solutions, there is less personal investment and so no-one feels burdened with responsibility.

But what often happens is that people want to emotionally unburden to avoid the responsibility for resolving it.  And so they will share problems with people who really don’t want to deal with them, but feel they have to because they care for the person and they take it at a more personal level.  It ends up worrying them and emotionally drains them.  So now you have two emotionally low people.  It’s not the most promising ingredients for a positive solution.

Enjoy people, but never need them or anything from them.


  1. 1

    jill says

    Hi All…
    So what happens when one is emotionally un happy within, realizes they are not healed after a very bad ending to a long term relationship involving children, but also realizes that she will probably never be healed unless she lets go…what then? In order to let go i must move on, i am fully aware that i have had ample time to heal, but i just cant get to that particular finish line, and, when opportunity comes knocking, i am afraid, not for myself, but for the other person. I feel like nothing will ever be the same again, so i dont even bother trying although, inside somewhere, i really really want to. I know the old saying about learning to live on your own bla bla bla, the core of everything is love and everyone needs it to survive…no matter what anyone says its so good to have that comfort and sense of belonging, have a mate, and someone you feel close to that you know is there for you. No matter how much i live on my own, i’m never going to be completely happy doing it. I know i can do it and be mostly fulfilled, but i know i’d be more comfortable with a side kick lol. Problem is i just cant seem to move forward even though i so much want to.

    • 2


      Hi Jill,

      Fist of all you have to know more specifically what it is that you are unhappy about and resolve that.

      Healing really is the process of coming to see the situation from a broader perspective, learning what there was to learn from it and releasing any attachment to what happened. It is the forgiving of yourself and others and starting afresh without any baggage from what has gone before.

      It is not really time that heals, but the distancing yourself from what happened then, to what is now. And that distancing relies on you letting go.

      Some people do need other people more than others. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a reflection of personality styles. To be able to build a new relationship on a sound footing, you need to come to an understanding that what was and what is are different things. You can only move on though, when you let go of the past, for holding onto the past is what is stopping you from moving on.

  2. 3


    Hi Rob, an interesting article but seems a bit damning to state you can’t trust anyone.

    Maybe what it comes down to is that people cannot fundamentally change their character to suit another persons ideal person. As they say a leopard can’t change its spots.

    I think for a loving relationship to work we need to accept fully the other person’s differences. If we’re honest it may be the things thought of as cheating, lying etc. that were the very things that attracted you to the person originally. Have you noticed how some women go from one relationship to another and yet always end up with a man of similar traits whether it be drinking, violent, adulterer etc. And of course the same is true the other way too.

    There are also fundamental differences between the way men and women like to communicate. When women moan about everything going wrong, they don’t want our solutions they want a sympathetic ear. Whereas guys want the solution to their problems. These differences are described in “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” series of books.

    My wife had to remind me of this when my daughter comes home moaning and groaning about everything that’s occurred in her day. Nowadays I just disappear and leave them to it – all that negativity gets me down but they positively thrive on it :-)

    • 4


      Hi Pat,

      “…seems a bit damning to state you can’t trust anyone.”

      It’s not a judgement of the character of an Individual that I’m talking about, but the fact that where there are opportunities where someone could lie or cheat, then we can never be 100% certain whether they have or haven’t. And so if our happiness depends on someone else then we will always have room for doubt.

      Added to which out of 100 people, at least 1 or more is likely to be unworthy of our trust. My point is that your happiness cannot be dependent on the quality of your judgement or it will soar and dip with the circumstances of your life.

      There are gender differences and personality differences to contend with in a relationship and you’ve made an excellent point also in identifying the thing that attracts is also often the thing that repels.

      However, the reason why that statement seems so damning is because I am saying that your first priority is to become a happy person. Because once anything else become your priority, your happiness becomes conditional on that other thing.

  3. 5


    Hi Jill,

    I feel for you and understand your situation, having been in a similar place myself – the thing is, I realised there WAS a way out (and the answer wasn’t in being with a partner).

    What it came down to for me was getting back in touch with my passion and purpose in life. I’ve always believed you can’t rely on other people for your happiness (nor on anything in the external world) as inevitably people die, move away, move on etc. If your happiness is dependent on them/things, it will be at their whim.

    I think what might help, is if you look at adjusting, modifying or even just examining your internal equation, where having a sidekick=ultimate fulfillment.

    You say that you know you could be fulfilled on your own, but not as much as if you had someone there with you. That’s kind of like ‘common sense’, isn’t it??, and I can understand how you would arrive at that conclusion, but can you 100%, unequivocally say that you DEFINITELY will be happier with someone next to you in a relationship. Or have you come to that conclusion through other means?

    What about if you flipped that equation, just for the sake of looking for more options and took on a mentally positive attitude and listed some other possibilities for yourself. Maybe they might look something like:

    1. I could be really fulfilled and feel free when I can do as I please, suit myself and pursue my passions on my own timetable with the support of family and close, dear friends…
    2. I could choose to look for and find the love and comfort I want via my interactions with every single person I meet, rather than feeling like I need to love and be loved by one person. (After all, isn’t the monogomous, two-person-happily-ever-after ‘ideal’ just a scenario that society/movies/etc set up for us? Have we ever considered what type of relationship would make us REALLY happy? Does it have to be the way everyone else is doing their ‘relationships’?, hence could your equation that a sidekick=happiness be faulty or even just a bit incomplete? could there be other possibilities? could you be larger than that? more expansive? I think you could.)
    3. I could discover a new type of ‘love’ by engaging in activities that I’m incredibly passionate about.

    I think that more than a person by our side, we need a positive, expansive, ‘possibility’ type mindset – ultimately that will bring us more options for happiness, which essentially is what we all desire. The thing is, you have to be happy where you are, before any other situation/person/place could make you happy in the future.

    You’re not broken, you have everything you need within you for a true lasting happiness and when you get to that point, you’d no doubt meet a similarly balanced, non-needy person to enjoy time and space with. As long as you need something from someone else, you’re making your happiness dependent and reactive – that’s a stressful situation to sustain and be involved in!

    I think predominantly you need to address this belief that being with someone is the ultimate happiness. Challenging our beliefs is hard, but can return some surprising answers. Where did you get that belief from? Could there be other options?

    I hope you’re feeling and continue to feel better day by day. :)

  4. 6

    Tammy says

    Again, another great read from Rob!

    I agree with so much and am challenged by other ideas, of course – the beauty!

    I heard Pat’s observation on Rob’s statement:
    ‘I accept that I’m a little weird, but I have never, ever needed anyone else to resolve a problem. And I think that is mainly due to my having almost no fixed beliefs. When things haven’t worked out I recognised that there was something flawed about either what I was aiming for or the way I was going about achieving it. And so I took the knocks as a guidance to course correct.’

    As I am in AA and came to believe that the ‘community’ of people trying to solve a common problem is a great asset.

    Yet, Rob says he ‘accepts’ this about himself and it is his choice – and reading on he seems to have an open mind for a new experience. A very healthy asset. I very much associated with ‘I think that is mainly due to my having almost no fixed beliefs.’ – which I used to count as a defect, but in reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hahn seems to just mean ‘avoiding attachments’ – to anything!

    I liked the thoughtful reflections Camilla offers. And Jill’s own admission of working on Acceptance is wonderful. I have done a lot of ‘practicing’ of Acceptance – and am in agreement that ‘Letting Go’ is major key in that.
    I found a little pamphlet called ‘Acceptance Therapy’ and read it for 40 days – as I heard and have experienced – anything you do for 40 days will transform!

    And again, as Rob says – this will only come about when we are truly ready for it!

    The best to all~

  5. 7

    Swati Limaye says

    Hi Rob
    I can atune to this explaination of yours ‘interact with people when you are happy, not when you are unhappy. Because the problem with all sorts of relationships start when one is not happy with oneself.’ If we interact when we are ourselves at peace, then we are in a better position to take people’s words or intentions, even if unfair, and find a reason and if possible a solution for them.
    You have a very good article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with everyone.

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