These past couple of weeks, in the midst of another major transition, I’ve been reflecting a lot on trust. Does living the expat life cause you to trust people more, or less? Does the constant fluctuation of friends and community enable you to reach out a bit more for help with a challenging technical issue, extra support with childcare or the everyday request for a spare egg or cup of flour?
In my own experience, expats do tend to take a big, deep breath and go for it when it comes to trusting their neighbors – particularly neighbors that are part of the same professional, religious or cultural community. Simply put, we don’t quite have time to be hesitant. When you’re new somewhere you have to begin building relationships quickly…precisely because you never know whose help you’ll need and when.
It also seems to me that there’s more to this extra-developed sense of trust than just the practical. I think there are other deeper, more personal and more happiness-inducing positives than just finding solutions for everyday problems.
Like what? Well, here are 4 (unscientific and anecdotally researched) benefits of trusting others:
- Stronger Relationships – When you trust others you’re saying to them, “I believe in you. I know you can do this.” This is an exceptional basis for building deeper and longer lasting relationships because it starts from a place of mutual respect and acceptance. Instead of someone having to “earn” your trust, you begin there and for the recipient of your trust this is a great confidence booster. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel that their friends trust them?
- Confidence in Your Own Abilities – Trusting others also enables you to build confidence in your own strengths, abilities and intuition. In today’s world, we’re constantly faced with the reality that many people and situations are not trust-worthy. But, when we trust others as our default we build in ourselves the capacity to go with our gut and see the positive outcomes when we do. And we strengthen our ability to know when and how to ask for help. In short – we tell ourselves, “I know you can do this. I believe in you. I trust your ability to ask for what you need.”
- Getting Burned – Along those same lines, sometimes we do get burned when we trust someone. Occasionally, we reach out only to find no one is listening or available. Or worse, the person we trusted turns out to be untrustworthy. It sounds awful…and it is awful. But it’s not all bad. Here’s why – we learn from the times that don’t work out just as much as we learn from the times that do. We heighten our awareness of when to trust and when to listen to that feeling in our gut that says, “Not so fast.” With time we become more efficient and proficient trusters.
- A Wider Network of Connections – In this great big world, it never ceases to amaze me how very small it can seem. It’s like living in a tiny village, spread out all over the world. You may not know your neighbor, but your neighbor probably knows your previous neighbor from three countries ago…or has at least heard of her…or once read a blog post she wrote. The point is this – when you trust someone to come into your life, to laugh (and cry) with you, to support you and to become your friend, you foster connections that not only strengthen your relationships, but that strengthen the relationships of your larger community. And that’s good for all of us.
So, if you’re finding yourself feeling the urge to reach out – I say go for it. Living the best life for you, where you are right now, means going out on a limb sometimes – trusting others as well as yourself.