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How to Tell If Someone Is Worth Your Trust

How to Tell If Someone Is Worth Your Trust

Louise Delage. Remember her?

She was a 25-year-old social media star, who in 2016 gained over 50,000 likes in a couple of months with photos of herself at boat parties and exotic travel destinations. She seemed like a fun, free soul who was enjoying her life to the full – but the reality was very different. In fact, she was an alcoholic, and was actually being used as part of an anti-alcohol campaign created by French agency BETC.[1]

    The campaign, known as "Like My Addiction," was designed to raise awareness of alcoholism among young people. The daily images of Louise appearing to enjoy her life with a drink in hand was the perfect set up. People loved her social accounts, and no doubt many people began to dream of emulating her lifestyle. When the reveal came, her social media followers were made to realize that they had failed to spot that Louise was actually a sad, struggling alcoholic.

    It's an extreme example, but in the real world (as well as in the virtual world) we can easily be duped by people who are not what they first seem.

    Don't Let Your Bias Blind You to the Truth

    When meeting people for the first time, you're most likely to trust your instincts and judgements. However, this may not be the best way to proceed, as it's likely that you have some inherent biases.

    Neglect of probability bias – many people find probability to be a difficult concept to deal with. This leads them to make black or white decisions. In other words, they choose either 0 percent or 100 percent. The problem with this type of decision-making, is that most things (and people) aren't just day or night. In reality, they are a mixture of things. So, a person who you may regard as 100 percent good, may in fact, have a negative side that you overlook due to bias.[2]

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    Illusory-correlation bias – this can be described as our tendency to erroneously connect an action and an effect. For example, you see a news story about a shark attack at a beach you are due to visit. Although the shark attack is the first in decades at that location, you immediately decide not to swim in the sea during your holiday. The odds of being attacked by a shark are incredibly low, and in reality, millions of people swim safely in the sea every year. Therefore, by staying out of the water, you've allowed the reported shark attack to cause an illusory-correlation bias in your mind.[3]

    Biases can cause us to make faulty assessments of people. And this can be bad news for us.

    Making the Wrong Judgement Can Be Harmful to You

    Imagine that you interview someone to look after your young children for one night a week.

    The 20-something lady appears calm, confident and easygoing. She also has childcare qualifications. As the safety and well-being of your children are paramount, you ask the lady for references from previous childcare work she has done. As if expecting that question to come up, she reaches into her handbag and takes out an envelope which contains two handwritten letters. These appear to be genuine reference letters from two of her previous employers.

    As everything seems in order, and the lady appears qualified and friendly, you find yourself drawn to offering the part-time childcare role to her immediately. However, something inside stops you doing it. Instead, you say to the lady: "Thank you for your time today. I'll let you know tomorrow if we'd like you to start."

    After the lady has left, you decide to do a quick bit of online research using the person's name and address. What you discover horrifies you. Credible news stories state that the lady had both of her children taken from her by social services due to her maltreatment of them. She was also prosecuted for the offence, and had served several months in jail!

    Having discovered the truth about the lady, you rightly decline to offer her a position caring for your children. But just think how close you came to giving her the job. It's enough to give you nightmares.

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    As the above demonstrates, making the wrong judgement about a person can be bad news indeed.

    Use These Seven Tips to Decide Whether a Person Can Be Trusted

    Learning how to correctly determine if someone is trustworthy is easier than you may think. And to prove this to you, I've put together a list of seven simple tips for deciding whether a person should be trusted.

    1. Observe the person from different perspectives and in different situations.

    You don't want to judge a person too easily. By doing this, you won't be giving yourself enough time (or material) to form an accurate assessment of a person. Instead, try to observe the way a person behaves in different scenarios.

    For example, someone at work may seem warm, approachable and super-friendly. However, you may see a different side to them when they go out drinking with friends on a night. Instead of the amiable person you see at work, they may become boisterous, arrogant – or even aggressive.

    2. Analyze their behavior to see if it's consistent across different circumstances.

    As discussed above, people can show different sides to their personality depending upon the situation they are in. A reliable, trustworthy person is more likely to demonstrate consistent behavior than someone with something to hide.

    If you've ever watched those 'border control' TV programs, you'll notice a pattern. People with something to hide are often overly-friendly at first (when they are trying to smuggle something into a country), but when it appears they are about to get caught – they frequently express irritation and anger at the border control staff. An honest person is likely to show far less divergence in their emotions.

    3. Take time to discover the "whole picture" of a person.

    I'm sure you've heard the expression: Don't judge a book by its cover. Well, this is true not just for books – but for people too! You must take an adequate amount of time to reach a fair appraisal of a person.

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    As an example for you, remember a time when you moved into a new house or apartment. You may have introduced yourself to your neighbors, only to find that one of them seemed quite rude and abrupt. You took an instant dislike to them. But as future events would show, you were too hasty in your judgement. This particular neighbor turned out to be the most helpful. They received your mail, cleaned the entrance way to your properties – and even offered to look after your pets when you went on holiday. In hindsight, it appears they were just having a bad day when you first met them.

    4. See if they trust others.

    People who are easily suspicious of others, are the very same people you may not want to give your trust to.

    This was suggested by a recent study of the behavior of online video game players.[4] The study found that those who were happy to cooperate and rely on other players were less likely to double-cross their partners in a game.

    In other words, trust is a two-way street.

    5. Ask yourself how much you know how they think.

    Getting inside someone's head allows you to understand how they think and act. One way to do this is to listen closely to what they say. Our words often betray are true thoughts.

    Criminal investigators frequently use this trick. When interviewing a suspect, they ask lots of questions, including some that are not specific to the particular case. They do this to see whether a suspect will reveal more about themselves than they might wish to do. A guilty person may try very hard to hide the truth. But in their efforts to appear innocent, they can often trip themselves up.

    Once you discover a person's thought patterns, you'll be able to make a fair assessment of their trustworthiness.

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    6. Try to learn about their past.

    The person standing in front of you may look like an angel – but what do you really know about them?

    Before giving your trust to a person, it makes sense to learn about their past. Employers understand this well. Whenever they're hiring new staff, they're likely to have a rigorous recruitment process. This usually starts with a detailed look at a resume. If the resume fits the bill, then the candidate will be asked to come in for an interview (or series of interviews). The employer will probe the candidate about their qualifications and their work experience. If the candidate is lucky enough to be selected for the job, references will be required before any contract is signed.

    While you don't need to be this thorough when assessing a person, it definitely makes sense to be aware of their past.

    7. But don't strive to know 100 percent about a person.

    If you do this, then you'll likely to never reach the stage of deciding on their trustworthiness.

    Instead, aim to know a decent amount about a person. This may be 15 percent, 30 percent or even 50 percent. The exact percentage is unimportant. The key thing is to understand enough about a person to be confident in deciding whether they can be trusted. A good example of this, is when choosing an automotive technician. Their ad in the local newspaper may sound appealing, but do some research to see if their customers have been satisfied with their work.

    We all have trust issues from time-to-time. It's just human nature. However, if you follow the seven tips above, you can super-charge your people assessment skills. This can help you to match up with trustworthy people, and to avoid the dishonest and undependable.

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

    More by this author

    Craig J Todd

    UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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    Last Updated on October 30, 2019

    How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

    How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

    Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

    In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

    Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

    You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

    What is the Stages of Change Model?

    Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

    Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

    Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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      The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

      The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

      The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

      The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

      1. Precontemplation
      2. Contemplation
      3. Determination
      4. Action
      5. Maintenance
      6. Termination

      How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

      To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

        Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

        Stage 1: Precontemplation

        At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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        For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

        Stage 2: Contemplation

        At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

        You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

        The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

        Stage 3: Preparation

        At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

        Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

        Stage 4: Action

        When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

        Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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        Stage 5: Maintenance

        After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

        Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

        Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

        Stage 6: Termination

        Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

        However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

        How long does each stage take?

        You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

        So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

        The limitations of this model

        The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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        Require the ability to set a realistic goal

        For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

        If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

        Difficult to judge your progress

        The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

        Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

        Conclusion

        The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

        While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

        Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
        [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
        [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
        [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
        [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
        [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
        [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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