How to Tell If Someone is Trustworthy or Not

We were visiting Nashville for a long weekend, eating and drinking and walking our way through the city. As Kati and I passed through an alley and neared a busy street of tourists gaping at saloon doors and live music attacking from every direction, a man approached us.

The man introduced himself and held a palm full of CD cases as he talked. He was a pianist, singer, and played several other instruments, having moved from Ohio to pursue a career in music.

As he opened the CD case while he spoke about his music in fine detail, he pointed to the burned CD with handwritten marker inside the case. He eagerly invited us to buy a copy of the CD to support local music.

I told him we hadn’t planned to buy music that day.

Not to be deterred, he smiled and thanked us for our time, and spotted a clump of tourists standing in front of a horse-themed bar and venue. As we walked away, I heard him start his introduction for a new audience on the street.

Who Gets Our Trust?

I admire that musician’s willingness to talk with complete strangers about something he believed in. The way he talked about music and his passion for it was undeniable.

Yet when it comes down to it, it’s nearly impossible to determine if that passion for his craft translates into actually good music. Unless we bought the CD and listened to it, we would have had to trust he knew what we wanted.

It made me think of something we all subconsciously do.

We may trust journalists to deliver true accounts of happenings across the world. We may trust that a product on will fulfill our expectations because it has 4.5 stars. But the most significant input we get is from the people around us: those who know and love us and have our best in mind.

Knowing and Being Known

Certainly our friends can’t be our only source of input for every choice we make and the perspective we hold of the world. This doesn’t mean everything our friends and family say will be true or helpful. But it does mean that they know more than anyone what we need to hear, when we need to hear it, and how we need to hear it.

We’re meant to be in relationships.

Friends learn to know each other’s taste, what they don’t like, and if something is worth their time. Sincere friendship is about knowing and being known.

Other voices can influence our decisions, but friends often know how to communicate an idea in the way we best understand.

A friend knows the right time and tone for asking why I spoke harshly. A friend doesn’t assume I have bad intentions, but asks questions about what I meant when I did or said that thing. A friend knows when I need to sit around the campfire without talking, but knows it’s not because we’re on ill terms. A friend knows what frustrates me more than anything, but doesn’t use that intentionally against me.

Part of the driving power of relationships is that we all want to know and be known.

What Great Friends Do

Without this kind of friend, we may be near in proximity to others but we won’t be near in spirit to them.

Great friends draw us into the world and help us connect more deeply to others and to ourselves. (tweet that)

The risk of being known is also the decision to be criticized by some. – Donald Miller

The trust of good friends helps us become vulnerable: to let our guard down so we can be more honest about ourselves. Not everyone can understand us, but our friends have the best chance to. Why would we try to please people who don’t know us when we’re already connected to the people who really care about us?

It’s not easy to be a good friend, but the reward is well worth the effort.


What is one area in which you listen to your friends’ advice and no one else’s?


Learn more about the book I’m writing, which explores the best ways we can grow through our relationships, conflict, and change. Subscribe to email updates here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.