Trust. It’s one of the most fundamental cornerstones in all human relationships.
It doesn’t matter whether that relationship is deeply personal or intimate, or whether it’s with a co-worker, boss, or someone you may wish to do business with.
There’s nothing as vital to the success of a relationship as trust.
As Stephen Covey, businessman, bestselling author, and educator famously wrote:
Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
Because trust is so important for our survival, it’s one of the first emotional bonds we develop after birth.
Psychologists tell us that we are programmed to seek out consistent behavior from those around us to help us make sense of the chaotic world we’ve been born into.
This isn’t just about seeking familiarity and comfort. This is a tool for survival – one that is deeply rooted in the human psyche.
The trust that we develop shapes our relationships from the earliest stages.
Since we are helpless as infants, we have to trust in order to survive.
Along the way, we not only learn the importance of trust, but also how to get what we want by convincing others to trust us.
As long as that trust is a two-way street – that we trust and are trusted in return – our relationships flourish.
But when our belief in the trustworthiness of others is damaged at an early age, the necessary confidence in the value of trust is lost.
If trust is absent in these formative years, the vacuum is filled with uncertainty, doubt, and inconsistency that often remains into adulthood.
The damage is so deeply rooted that coping mechanisms will develop that make it difficult for these people to trust others.
And quite often they, in turn, cannot be trusted.
Once untrustworthy patterns of behavior develop, they are difficult to break.
Many such individuals will never be trustworthy, although some will learn to hide their deceitful nature pretty effectively.
It is only when they break your trust that their true colors shine through, but the damage will already have been done.
Others, though, will display certain telltale patterns of behavior which are listed below.
When you’re in the know, you may be able to stop yourself from getting hurt.
There’s a saying which goes something like: “Trust nothing but your intuition. Your intuition will tell you who to trust.”
It would be great if this was always the case, but, in reality, it’s more difficult than that.
While we humans are hard-wired instinctively to trust or not, many of us have forgiving natures or other reasons that make us inclined to ignore our gut responses.
And then we’re forced to reap the consequences, which can often be ugly.
So, what are the behavioral signs to look for in an untrustworthy individual?
Knowing the signs could help us back up our instinctive negative response or give us a nudge when we’re just not sure whether we’re reading a person correctly.
10 Signs Of Untrustworthiness
Here are some telltale signs to look for in a person who is not worthy of your trust:
1. They are two-faced.
We’ve all come across our fair share of this type of behavior.
When a person is with you, they’ll be as nice as pie. But when your back is turned, they won’t think twice about criticizing what you do and say.
They won’t hold back on sharing any juicy nuggets of gossip about you, either.
As soon as you detect this kind of behavior, it’s time to make a sharp exit from the relationship to protect yourself.
2. They turn their back on you in public.
When you’re alone or in unfamiliar situations with this type of person, you’ll find they’re friendly and apparently enjoy your company.
By contrast, when you find yourselves among their own crowd or among people whom they’re trying to impress, they won’t give you the time of day.
They’ll act as if you’ve barely ever met.
This kind of behavior indicates that they’re trying to get something from you in some way or other.
Their interest in you is just superficial.
When they’ve got what they want, or it’s clear to them that they’re not going to succeed in getting it, they’ll drop you in a heartbeat.
3. They struggle to empathize.
A lack of empathy is essential for someone to be able to deceive or hurt other people.
Interestingly, most untrustworthy people are lacking this key emotion.
An empathetic person would never knowingly cause pain to others because they’re able to feel this pain themselves.
The ability to empathize, therefore, acts like a brake on hurtful behavior.
If a person is capable of stabbing someone in the back or betraying a confidence, they lack the ability to empathize.
They take no responsibility for the damage, hurt, or inconvenience they cause to others.
Worst of all, a person who is truly without empathy doesn’t even know that they lack it, since they can only see things from their own self-serving perspective.
Some individuals, however, are able to simulate empathy on a selective basis – normally when they stand to gain something.
This makes the trait harder to spot.
By observing how they treat those they interact with, especially those who they stand to gain nothing from like a waiter or cleaner, their true nature will soon be revealed.
Displaying a lack of empathy should certainly raise a red flag in terms of a person’s trustworthiness.
4. They breach confidentiality.
Most of us have childhood memories of swearing a close friend to secrecy, only for them to spill the beans minutes later.
We usually learn from our mistakes and mend our ways, realizing that confidentiality, when asked for and agreed to, is sacred.
Someone who moves into adulthood without having learnt the art of keeping a secret certainly isn’t to be trusted.
If a person is keen to share someone else’s confidences with you, you can be sure of their untrustworthiness.
After all, they’re actively betraying another person’s trust by telling you.
Your own secrets won’t be treated with any more respect.
Indeed, if you’ve told them some private information, there’s every chance that this is already public knowledge.
Untrustworthy people relish the opportunity to share juicy nuggets of information that they’ve been told in confidence.
The driver for this behavior is their belief that it will boost their own popularity and show off their close connections with others.
Where there is no respect for confidentiality, there is no hope for trust.
Other essential reading on trust (article continues below):
- 3 Signs Of Trust Issues And How To Get Over Them
- 10 Telltale Signs You’re Being Lied To
- How To Rebuild And Regain Trust After Lying To Your Partner
- How To Trust Again: Learning To Let Someone In Despite Past Hurt
- How To Deal With People Who Talk About You Behind Your Back
- Why Integrity Is So Important In Life (+ How To Show Yours)
5. They abuse their ‘power’ over you.
Once they have your trust and they’re in possession of some information about you, a person may start using it to exert control over you.
Often this type of behavior starts innocently enough.
They’ll be nice to you, although it’s more of a fake niceness.
If you listen to your instincts, you may well feel that something is not quite right about the relationship.
In time, your gut response will prove to be right.
Keep an eye on the way they interact with others. Do your best to follow your instincts and get away before you are hurt by their abuse of your trust.
6. They are excessively charming.
It’s usually a pleasure to meet friendly and open people.
But there’s a whole world of difference between that and a person who seems overly sweet and charming.
Their behavior may well trigger your intuitive suspicions in spite of their friendliness.
Under that super-nice exterior often lurks a traitorous streak, which will show itself sooner or later.
If you analyze what’s going on, you’ll notice that they constantly seek to know more about you, yet never reveal much about themselves.
The usual exchange of information between new acquaintances or friends doesn’t happen.
Sooner or later, you’ll find out their true agenda, but by then you may discover it’s not easy to extricate yourself from their clutches.
7. They are fickle.
Being indecisive is vastly different from being fickle.
Let’s face it, most of us are indecisive when it comes to trivialities like choosing from a menu with too many tempting options.
And, of course, we all change our minds now and again, occasionally even about important issues.
The difference with fickle people is that you can never trust any of their decisions, no matter how important the matter being considered.
They will flip and flop between vastly different options.
Their emotional state can be volatile and the outcome of their decisions shows a pattern of inconsistency.
Not only that, a fickle person will make promises they quickly come to regret and then retract.
Their erratic feelings mean they’re never certain of the reasons for the decisions they make.
They are more likely to be influenced by external factors rather than obeying their internal compass. That’s because it isn’t strong enough to guide them as it should.
It’s not volatility per se which indicates someone is not to be trusted.
A wildly fluctuating emotional state that leads to constant changes of mind or the inability to make a decision and stick to it, however, means that there’s no anchor on which to base your trust.
8. They fail to fulfil commitments.
Tardiness is one of the clearest indicators that an individual has no respect for the value of your time.
A trustworthy person will make the effort to be on time out of respect.
Sometimes delays are unavoidable, but making a quick call or sending a brief message is the obvious thing to do when it happens.
However, if a person often shows up late without making any effort to let you know that they’re delayed, or – worse still – fails to turn up at all, that’s a clear sign that they can’t be trusted to fulfil their commitments.
If they change or cancel plans at the drop of a hat without letting others know, they clearly don’t understand the value of other people’s time.
They don’t see that their actions impact upon others, or just don’t care.
When this happens in business, it’s seriously unprofessional behavior which will undermine any trust.
Among friends, it will pretty soon become clear that this person can’t be counted on.
9. They show narcissistic traits.
A narcissist can only see life from their own perspective.
Nothing is more important than themselves and everyone else’s role is to be subservient to them.
They are masters of playing the blame game and making sure that others take the rap for mistakes they have made but will never own up to.
From their egocentric perspective, the fault will always lie at someone else’s door.
It’s not hard to see why someone who displays the signs of being a narcissist is not worthy of your trust.
10. They are lying to themselves.
There is often a significant disconnect between the way an untrustworthy person sees themselves and reality.
They might, for example, portray themselves as quiet and peace-loving. Yet their actual behavior might reveal them to be loud-mouthed and confrontational.
Clearly, for complex reasons which only they understand, they are trying to create a perception that matches their desires. Only, it has no connection with reality.
The mismatch between their words and their behavior can often be quite considerable.
Such a disconnect should set those alarm bells of untrustworthiness ringing loudly.
Of course, many of us display at least a few of these types of behavior from time to time.
We’re only human, after all.
But if you see two or more signs consistently in a person, they are unlikely to be worthy of your trust.
Ultimately, the best advice is to trust your instincts because they’re usually right and their purpose is to protect you from danger.
If you sense that there is something off about someone and your intuition tells you not to trust them, your instinctive response is probably correct.
But keeping these warning signs of untrustworthiness in mind may give you the necessary back-up to your intuition and protect you from getting hurt.