written by LOU BLASER

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.


We want to trust people.

And we certainly want to be trustworthy.

But what exactly is trust? And how do we know whether it’s safe to trust?

In his book, “The Thin Book of Trust”, Charles Feltman defines trust as:

“choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.”

Choosing to risk. Something you value. Vulnerable. To someone else’s actions.

I don’t know about you, but when I first read that definition, my knee-jerk was, “Gah, I don’t want to trust anyone.”

But of course, that’s no way to live.

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone — but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” — Walter Anderson

The truth is some of us are predisposed to trust easily, and others, not so much.

And just like many things in life, our trust positions were developed when we were kids.

So, our experiences with our family of origin play a huge factor. As usual.

There’s also the question of rebuilding trust once it’s broken.

Feltman describes distrust as an assessment that what is important to us is not safe with a specific person in a specific situation (or any situation).

And for many people (me included), moving back to trust from a distrust position is even more challenging.

• • • • •

I’ve been traveling a lot these past few months, and this question of trust has surprisingly reared its head more than a few times.

As I meet new people or reconnect old ties, I hear a small voice in the background asking, “Who can I trust now in this season of my life?”

At the same time, “How can I foster trust?”

Also, “Where and how do I trust?”

The resources in the next section have been helpful as I explored these questions.

If you only have time for one, don’t miss the talk by Brené Brown on the Anatomy of Trust.


  • Audio: The Anatomy of Trust by Brené Brown | Super Soul Conversations. In a live appearance at UCLA’s Royce Hall, research professor, social scientist, New York Times best-selling author, and TED Talk sensation Dr. Brené Brown discusses the fundamentals of trust.
  • This post is a brief outtake of Brené Brown’s B-R-A-V-I-N-G checklist, which she discussed in the audio link above. If you haven’t got time to listen to the audio right now, this would be a good summary to start with. To Trust or Not to Trust
  • “Once trust has been broken, an apology may not be sufficient to rectify the damage to the relationship. Explanations and excuses can only make matters worse.” How to Rebuild Trust in 7 Steps
  • Rebuilding someone else’s trust requires that we own up to our actions that led to the distrust. And that means not being so defensive! The sad thing is many of us react defensively without even thinking about it. And a persistent air of defensiveness creates “a climate of contention and tension that eventually leads to a loss of trust, alienation, and separation”. Defensiveness is Killing Your Relationships – How To Recognize It and What to Do About It


“Trust is built not in grand gestures but in the smallest moments.” — Brené Brown


The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer For Building Trust at Work
by Charles Feltman

This is a small book about a very important subject. With this book, you will learn how to build and maintain strong trusting relationships with others and repair trust when it is broken by being intentional and consistent in your language and actions.


Meet Gen Xer Mirat Dave

Mirat says the 25-year-old version of himself may be surprised to see how little about him has changed through the years — except of course, that he now looks older. 🤭

Having said that, Mirat believes he is a lot less impulsive now in his midlife, driven by greater responsibilities, both professionally and personally.

Here’s a quick profile of Mirat.


Brené Brown closes her discussion on trust by making a critical point about self-trust. She quotes Dr. Maya Angelou.

“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves but say ‘I love you.’”

We cannot ask others to give us something we do not believe we’re worthy of receiving.

Brené ends with this.

“And you’ll know when you’re worthy of receiving it when you trust yourself above everyone else.”

Hmmm. Sooo good.

What’s been your experience with trust? Do you trust easily or not so much?

Cool Beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.