Building Successful Relationships: Can You Trust Her? That Depends…

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Gloria habitually made blanket statements about not being able to trust anyone. Her friend Karen never questioned anything or anybody. Guess which one frequently discovered someone had taken advantage of her?


We frequently hear people say, “He can’t be trusted,” or “I don’t trust her.” What does that mean? Some people cannot be trusted with money. Others wouldn’t steal a penny from you but wouldn’t keep a secret. Someone else might be scrupulously honest with money and totally trustworthy in keeping confidences, but inclined to break promises or go back on his or her word.

Trust is, of course, a most important aspect of interpersonal relationships. The people we tend to gravitate to, those we select as friends and lovers are, we hope, fully trustworthy.

When one of our friends said, “I don’t trust my husband,” we assumed that she suspected him of having an affair and was deceiving her. However, it turned out that she meant that he would promise to fix things around the house and then make excuses. We are discussing a widespread tendency that creates enormous confusion and many misunderstandings.

• Be specific unless you want to convey distorted impressions.

Here’s an example: You and Lucy are discussing the possibility of entering into a business arrangement with Harry. Lucy says, “I don’t trust him.” You wonder, and ask, “Why? What do you mean?” What exactly does she not trust about Harry? On the face of it, “I don’t trust him” would seem to imply that the deal is off. But upon inquiry, let’s say that Lucy is questioning whether Harry will invest his fair share of money into the venture. In this case, there’s no need to scuttle the deal. What’s needed is for Lucy to make her concern specific, and for Harry to agree in writing how much he is willing to invest.

This simple example shows the detours and vagueness that general statements can generate. We cannot say often enough: please be specific.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on