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Who Do You Trust?

Who Do You Trust?

A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I trust everyone from the start, or if I trust no one until they’ve earned it. My gut response was I trust everyone. I believe most people are inherently good and if you start the relationship on a positive note, it gives the opportunity to create a better foundation.

Her response was she trusted no one until they proved they were trustworthy. It was an interesting conversation starter, but we were both tired from training that day and simply left the conversation with those two viewpoints.

Now, weeks later, I find myself wondering if I truly trust everyone when I first interact with them. I strive to remain curious in my daily life, and that includes questioning if what I believe is something I truly believe, or if it’s been programmed in my head from some social construct.

Do I really trust every new person I meet? What exactly does it mean to trust someone? Are there varying degrees of trust?

After pondering these questions and testing them against my initial response to her, I found that it’s not so much that I trust other people, it’s that I trust my intuition in evaluating others.

Humans, especially women, have unbelievable intuition skills. Women have been traditionally raised to be the caretakers. To be good caretakers, we need to be empathetic. To have empathy for another person, you need to be able to really hear and see and feel what they’re saying. It’s not always what a person is saying, it’s how they are saying it. Reading the other person’s non-verbals are just as important as actively listening to what they are saying. I once heard a speaker describe it as “the audio matching the video”.

Does the person say they’re happy and content with a sad face and droopy shoulders?  If that’s the case, I don’t believe what they’re saying. It takes a lot more effort to fake body language than to fake the words coming out of their mouth.

From a personal safety perspective, it is vital for women to be able to read a potential attacker’s true intentions. The quote by Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them” comes to mind. To me, that statement seems extreme. Have I really walked around my whole life, wondering if every man that crosses my path might kill me?

Yes, I’ve interacted with male strangers that made me leery of their presence. Something about their body language told me they had the potential to cause me harm and I needed to pay extra attention to them and their proximity to me. But most of the time, they were strangers in a public setting. In that instance, I did not give them the benefit of trust. In fact, it was more in line with my friend’s response of “I trust no one”. So, did that mean I don’t actually trust everyone from the start?

That’s where I decided to dig deeper.

I don’t walk around in paranoia, fearful that every stranger wants to kill me. I don’t walk around paranoid period.

I’m alert and aware of the energy of a place and the people in it. I establish a baseline of what I would normally expect to see, hear, smell in the situation, and then I pay attention to anything or anyone that doesn’t fit that expectation.

I watch for anomalies.

If no one appears to be outside the baselines I’ve established, then I trust that they have no ill intent planned and mean me no harm. That falls in line with trusting strangers.

If I see someone behaving outside my baselines, my trust that their intentions are good, decreases. My intuition tells me I need to pay attention to them to gather further information. Even though my trust in them decreases, they could still have good intentions and mean me no harm. I do trust my intuition telling me to watch them and their actions. There’s still a level of trust there. I trust that their body language is projecting their true intentions. I trust that they do mean to cause harm or disruption of some sort. In essence, I do trust them, it’s just not in the harmless sense.

Learning to listen to your intuition and understand what it’s trying to tell you is essential in building your self-confidence. To move forward and live life the way you want, you need to trust yourself first and foremost. It starts with building trust in your intuition. As with most things in life, you have to start with what you have control over-you. By trusting that your intuition has your best interest in mind and the signals of intuition are always in response to something, whether you consciously or sub-consciously recognize the signals, you will build self-confidence in your ability to make smart decisions to keep yourself safe.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

-Rumi

How Could They Do That!?!

How Could They Do That!?!

When I get sent videos or articles about women being attacked, I have a moment of shock and disbelief. How could a human being do that to another human being?! And since 1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, the shock of being attacked by someone they knew is even more chilling.

Social Norms

Why is it so shocking? Because MOST of society adheres to social norms. What are social norms? According to Your Dictionary…

“Social norms, or mores, are the unwritten rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society. Norms function to provide order and predictability in society.”

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

People follow social norms to get along. They want to feel like they belong and are a part of a group. You’ve probably heard the term “Tribe” before. We all want to find our tribe. It’s a social group where we feel accepted for who we are, and that people “get” us. We want to believe that most people are good and kind…and most people are! When we read stories of complete strangers helping others in a time of need, we are reminded that good people still exist and our faith in humanity is restored.

When an attacker breaks that trust, we are stunned. We ask ourselves, “how could someone do that to someone!?!” and going back to the bleak statistic above, we ask “how could someone do that to someone they know and supposedly care about!?!”

It’s because of one simple truth.

Monsters are real and they look like people.

The Criminal Mindset

The criminal mind does NOT play by society’s rules. They do not adhere to social norms. In fact, they take advantage of the knowledge that most people expect others to play by the rules. Criminals know most women are caregivers and want to help others. Serial killer Ted Bundy pretended to have an injured arm and asked women to help him put something in his car. Not only did he look like an everyday guy (I can’t stomach calling him handsome), he knew how to manipulate a woman’s kindness and willingness to help, to get what he wanted. Even though Ted Bundy targeted strangers (which is not the statistical norm), his manipulation techniques are a great example of exploiting social norms to target his victims.

Too Trusting

Steve Kardian, a career law enforcement officer and author who specializes in crime prevention and risk reduction for women’s safety, shared an experiment he did on a college campus. In his book, The New Superpower for Women, Steve talks about a test he did in partnership with the tv show, Inside Edition, “Are college women too trusting?”. He placed himself on the side of a large, college campus parking lot, wearing a baseball cap, backpack and knee-length shorts. Many people did spot him as out of place and decades too old for being on campus, but just as many didn’t give him a second glance. He selected 8 women to “test” simply because they were distracted. They hadn’t noticed him even though they were walking closely past him and were startled when he approached them. Out of the 8 women he selected, all 8 let him get into their car by him simply saying, “Hey there, could you drop me off at the security gates so I could get some help here?” And motioning vaguely, as if towards a stalled vehicle.

Scary? Unbelievably so. We all like to think we would NEVER let a complete stranger get into our car. But when we are distracted and not paying attention to our surroundings, if someone is suddenly asking for help, will you have time to ask yourself, “who is this person and why are they asking for my help?”, or will you simply respond, “sure”.

Be Aware

Situational awareness is the foundation of taking responsibility for your personal safety. Never let the “hope” that all people are playing by the same set of society’s rules, lead you to ignore what your intuition is telling you.

“When we’re distracted, situations that startle us can cause an unconscious response instead of an informed, conscious action.”

-Kelly Sayre