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4 steps to building trust

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Danny Raede


Whether you are a parent, teacher, therapist, or person with Asperger’s, learning how to build & create trust leads to strengthened relationships, less Defense Mode, and an improvement in life in virtually every area.

Since a large portion of living with Asperger’s means understanding, living with, and eventually getting out of Defense Mode, and since Defense Mode relies on connection & trust, learning how to build trust is essential.

Raising someone with Asperger’s is pretty much impossible without a strong degree of trust between parent and child. (The same goes for teaching someone with AS or helping them in a therapeutic setting).

Learning to build trust is one of the best skills you can learn. Here’s how to do it:

What is trust exactly?

Before you can build trust, you’ll need to know what exactly you are attempting to do. It’s the same thing as trying to “be happy” without understanding what that means.

Trust comes from the old norse “Treysta” meaning “To rely on, to make strong or safe”. In short, if you have trust, you feel you can rely on the thing you are trusting. It doesn't feel strong & safe to you. If you don’t have trust, there is nothing to rely on. There is no safety. With that comes being in Defense Mode, being shut down, and general life suckiness. Building trust is domain specific. You may trust someone to cook you good, healthy food, and rely upon them for it, but not trust them to be emotionally available if you need them to.

How to build trust

Trust is built through interaction with and/or understanding of the person, place, feeling, sensation, event or thing you are in a current state of distrust with. Without interaction or understanding, trust can’t be built. For example: If I meet someone new, the only way to gain trust in them is by either interacting with them to share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc… or by reading enough about them to understand their background & competency level in the thing I am going to trust them with.

In short: The first time you meet with a brain surgeon, there is already an element of trust there because of the position they hold and the shared understanding that comes with that position. But if there is no shared understanding (which is usually the case), then interaction is the way to go.

Specifically, interaction that has 4 characteristics present in order to build trust. If any one of these characteristics are missing it will not work. It must be:

- Recurring, meaning that it happens more than once. In order to make a new judgement of trustworthiness, you’ll need new information and familiarity, which means that you’ll need to engage in frequent interaction.

- Intimate, meaning that the interaction feels personal, intimate and uniquely tailored for the specific person. A form letter sent by a faceless company builds no trust.

- Positive, meaning that you come out of the interaction in a better state than when you entered. If you try something and it ends up in a negative result, trust was diminished, rather than built.

- Low-risk. In order to interact with something that you have low trust in, the interaction needs to be fairly low-risk. If I don’t trust a certain food’s taste, I’ll have another food I like standing by just in case.

If someone brings up a particularly high-risk topic in conversation then that whole interaction can now be considered “high-risk”. This is determined by ALL parties engaged in the interaction. If it feels low-risk to you, but high-risk to someone else, then it is high-risk as far as this formula is concerned.

These 4 elements need to be present in any trust building work, whether that be with food, people, ideas, sensations, etc. If they aren’t there, trust isn’t being built.

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