Trust is one of the most important things about any friendship. Without it, you're simply spending time with acquaintances who might tell your secrets, laugh behind your back, or be completely apathetic. Every close relationship should be a safe place for the people involved, which means that you feel free to be yourself, say what you're really thinking, and not worry that things will get misconstrued.
It goes without saying that every relationship should be free from physical violence. Friendships should also be an emotionally safe place as well, and often that comes with simply showing the proper amount of respect. Here are some tips on making that happen.
Don't Share Secrets
It can be really tempting to blab about other people's lives, especially when they told you something that no one else knows. But the mark of a true friend is someone who can guard their friend's secret safely. Your pal shouldn't have to say "don't tell anyone else," for you to understand that some things are not to be shared with just anyone.
For example, you might want to keep these subjects to yourself:
- A secret past.
- A current emotional or financial struggle.
- Problems in a friend's marriage.
- Life decisions a friend is debating.
The list can go on and on, depending on the people involved. Something that is "no big deal" to you may be a very big deal to a friend.
Some people get a "high" from sharing secretive information with another person, and if you're someone that likes to gossip, be aware of how this will affect your friendship. Once you share confidential information, your friend will no longer feel the same trust for you. This devalues your friendship. Sometimes this loss of trust may never be regained.
If you're unsure whether to share a piece of information with someone else, here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Did your friend tell you not to say anything?
- Did they tell you their secret in hushed tones, to imply that they didn't want anyone else to know?
- Do you feel a sense of excitement or dread at sharing this news with another person?
- Remember the Golden Rule. Is this something you'd want shared if the situation was reversed?
Don't Air Arguments in Public
Ideally, when you and a friend disagree, you should do it privately where you both can say the things you'd like to say without others around to chime in or observe. This means choosing a neutral setting for difficult discussions and hearing your friend out when you disagree.
Some people wait until others are around to bring up a sore spot with a friend because they feel it gives them courage. But this is a surefire way to ruin trust in a friendship, and even cause a breakup.
The right way to get through a big blow up with a friend is to give yourself some time to look at the situation calmly, and then talk it out. If you are not ready to forgive or lack the desire to make up, there are other issues involved that you'll have to work through in order to get back to a good place with your friend.
Don't Rally the Troops Against Your Friend
People who feel hurt or misunderstood from a friend and then go to other people in their social circle to complain also damage their friendship. On the surface, they do this because they need to feel that "someone" is on their side, so they might talk about the argument with people not involved as a way to feel justified in their behavior.
This ruins the trust in a relationship in many different ways. First, you should always go to the person you have the issue with to talk it out and not other people. This gives your friend the trust (and safety) of knowing that even though your friendship is not in a positive place right now, you both respect it too much to just let it drop. Just because you're not ready to deal with an issue right now doesn't mean you and your friend won't work it through eventually.
Second, by telling others about what transpired between you and a friend, you're giving the silent message that you don't care about the friendship. Even if you make up, your friend will no longer feel comfortable interacting with you and your friendship will be much less close than it was before.
Third, there is always the possibility that your friend doesn't understand that you two are experiencing a problem. If you haven't talked about it with them (and instead have chosen to blab to other people), you're not being fair to your friend. Misunderstandings happen, and if you can't address it with your friend, you shouldn't be sharing it with anyone else yet.
Bottom line, if you value your friendship, you need to make sure the way you handle things provides the respect and trust that your friend deserves.