Askable Adult Skill: How to be trustworthy despite being imperfect

Be someone they can talk to.

We trust each other a lot but there are some times when it’s a bit shaky and we can get angry at each other, but every time we can get that relationship back and we can trust each other more.

–Gabriel talking to his mom Natanya.  Listen to their story about building trust and hear more stories on our website.


In real-life relationships, trust can get damaged. Adults make mistakes, especially when we are stressed, or following advice that stresses setting limits above all else – including relationships. Youth can end up feeling disrespected and misunderstood, triggering a downward spiral of conflict and disconnection. If this sounds familiar, don’t despair. Repair can be possible, and trust can be rebuilt and even deepened with commitment, consistency and time. Really good apologies help too (a lot).

We all know that keeping promises, showing up and being consistent are essential for earning trust.  It turns out that sharing power and demonstrating respect are just as essential. What does this mean to youth?  I asked a few and here is what they told me.


“I know an adult respects me when they accept me as I am and don’t judge me.” explained one young friend. 


I probed: how do you know they accept you as you are? My friend paused to consider. “They show it in a lot of ways,” she explained. “They actually listen and don’t give advice unless I ask for it. They act like what I think matters…,” and, she repeated, “They don’t judge me.”  Adults – let’s take note!  That one comes up a lot. 


Another young colleague talked about her experience as an intern working with adults who share power: “In a lot of settings, youth are nurtured instead of listened to.  Adults in a lot of contexts are trying to shape our lives and the way we perceive the world.  [In the internship,] the adults here want to listen to us.  They know they can learn from us.  Our generation has different needs than theirs did.  It makes me feel really heard.”


So what if we have damaged trust in a relationship with a young person? An adult friend recounted to me her experience of rebuilding trust in small moments over time. “It had to start with me,” she explained, “with daily practices that help me regulate my own emotions, so I can respond instead of reacting. Then I can empathize, set aside my own agenda or judgment, and just connect.” Over time, she assured me, “this has changed everything.” 

Original Artwork by Teppi Zuppo @aioazech