There is a popular school of thought suggesting trust is a self-fulfilling prophecy, that the best way to know if you can trust someone is to trust him or her first. It relies on the theory that someone is more likely to be trustworthy if they have a strong feeling that they are being trusted. Sadly, this is not always the case. There are many types of people who are categorically less than honest, ranging from the pathological liar and career con artist to that friend you’ve observed acting shady a time or two. There are some general characteristics you can identify to help you decide whether or not you can trust someone.
1) Body Language
A person’s mannerisms can be a strong reflection of their level of trustworthiness. Most honest people are calm, with their arms at their sides, and facing directly toward you when speaking. A person who is fidgety, crosses their arms, or turns away from you when you are talking to them might not be as committed or open to you, or could be hiding something. There is research that supports that a person will become more physically tense if they are not telling the truth. Be wary if a person is playing with their hair or pressing their lips together when you ask a sensitive question.
2) The Eyes
Some say eyes “are the window to the soul.” They also might reveal if someone is telling the truth. Liars often look away when you are speaking to them. This doesn’t always necessarily mean someone isn’t telling the truth, however, someone lying might briefly look away, while someone telling the truth might be taking more time to give you an honest answer. Studies show enlarged pupils indicate tension in someone’s thought patterns. A common belief among crime investigators is people tend to blink in rapid succession if they are lying. They say a person might blink five or six times in rapid succession because they are stressed. However, this can also be attributed to a mental disorder, like schizophrenia.
3) Speech and Attitude
Some research suggests there are a few verbal cues common among liars. They don’t often use first-person pronouns, like not using “I” in their conversation to provide distance between themselves and their stories. They might also use a lot of negative words, like “sad,” “worthless,” and tend to use “hate” frequently. People who have a habit of lying often fail to use exclusionary words, like “except,” “nor,” or “but” that make a distinction about what was intended to happen, but failed to materialize. They have difficulty grasping this complexity. Also be aware of unnecessary superlatives. Words like “tremendous,” “absolutely,” and “literally” are often used to bolster an argument or defense, or to distract you. When someone asks for you to repeat a question, they might be trying to be sure they heard you correctly, but they might also be trying to employ a tactic commonly used among lawyers and politicians. It’s sometimes a maneuver to stall for time, or an attempt to unpack what you asked and figure out how much you know.
4) Social Media
In this day and age, there’s plenty you can glean from someone’s social media account to help you determine whether or not they are trustworthy. Almost everybody at least has a Facebook account, and Instagram and Snapchat are quickly gaining popularity and becoming more favorable to people in their 30s and younger. Look at the person’s photos. Do their activities and demeanor jive with who you’ve encountered in person? What kind of company do they keep? Pictures easily reveal the types of activities they engage in. You can also get a pretty good perspective on what they tend to “like.” Look them up on Twitter. There’s a good chance you might be able to get a good idea of their political views as well.
How someone conducts themselves is generally the most accurate reflection of a person’s level of honesty. Observe how they treat and interact with others. Are they rude or insensitive to strangers? How do they talk to a server, bartender, or someone at a checkout counter? The way a person treats strangers speaks volumes about their true character. A person prone to excessive gossip can be a strong candidate of a mindset that could easily justify in their minds acting less than completely honest. You should question the honesty of someone who has a habit of talking behind other people’s backs or negatively about other people.
Someone who is honest with you is typically very open in conversation. They provide a lot of detail and volunteer information, and you usually don’t have to pry them for answers. People who lie a lot are generally vague and hardly reveal much about themselves in conversation. If someone is straightforward with you, they appear as if they are vested in your concerns. If you’re trying to find out something from someone, do they beat around the bush? If you can’t get a straight answer from someone, you obviously can’t trust them. Sometimes you just need to trust your own instincts. If your gut feeling is telling you not to trust a person, it’s more than likely correct.
Indeed, actions do speak louder than words. Do you know anyone who has strange quirks that make you feel they’re up to something? When you notice something that triggers your suspicion radar, learn to trust your instincts. If you’re really questioning whether or not you can trust someone, take some good mental notes on how they act around you. Are they oddly careful about leaving their phone out? Maybe they have a peculiar way of keeping their phone screen away from anybody else’s view. Have you seen the person quickly close their laptop when they see you? Don’t fall for excessive flattery. This is a very common tactic for someone looking to set you up or buy your trust.
8) Commitment and Consideration
A strong measurement of how you know if you can trust someone is how reliable they are. If a person is generally punctual and is never late to meet you, that’s a strong indicator they value your time. How often do they cancel or change plans? When someone respects and/or is concerned about your well-being, they make time for you. Someone who constantly flakes on you is definitely not indicating trustworthiness. You obviously can’t rely on this person, and hence, should only trust them with a grain of salt.
It might seem like a very simplistic concept, but kindness is a pretty reliable indicator of a person you can trust. Yes, honest people are generally nice people as well. They express humility. They are not trying to hold themselves up above others and are able to understand and empathize what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. They are compassionate and are often willing to help. If someone regularly offers you their help, chances are you can trust them.
10) Lying About Little Things
Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” Sure, everybody loves a good story and can tend to embellish one to make it even better. More than likely, you know someone who might add a little pizazz to a story of a personal experience of theirs to make it more interesting. Though their intentions might not be malicious, and they’re embellishing for sheer entertainment value, it’s still lying. This doesn’t necessarily reflect a major character flaw, but these types of people are never too reliable with keeping a secret.
11) Second Opinion
Ultimately, deciding on whether you can trust somebody can be a lot like making a serious purchase or seeking a doctor’s advice. Talk to someone else who knows this person better than you do. What’s their opinion? Are they known to follow up on commitments? Employers usually require three personal or professional references. Why shouldn’t you?
12) Trust Yourself
Do you trust yourself? This might sound like an easy question, but some people, for one reason or another, find it difficult to trust other people. They might be victims of an abusive upbringing, suffered through a failed marriage, or been burned or heartbroken by someone they deeply loved. This can leave deep emotional scars and leave a strong inability to want to trust anyone ever again. Personal tragedy can easily darken one’s worldview, and leave the feeling that trusting people is foolish and naive. This is indeed an unfortunate mindset and must be overcome. The bottom line is trust is the foundation of all relationships, and there is no getting around that. It will always be difficult to trust others until you learn to trust yourself. Learn to be open to telling someone else what you are thinking and how you feel. Become a trustworthy individual by being honest in all circumstances and always try to live up to your intentions.