How To Determine Trustworthiness

What signals should we look for to determine someone’s trustworthiness? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Dr. Abbie Maroño, PhD in Psychology & Human Behaviour Analysis, on Quora:

As a known advocate for the importance of nonverbal behavior, most people would be expecting me to answer by describing different nonverbal signals to look for to determine trustworthiness. However, I am going to do the opposite and advise you to look beyond the nonverbals. Why? Because nonverbal communication is important for the perception of trustworthiness, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to actual trustworthiness. Hence, as a ‘sender’ you should know how to appear trustworthy, but as an observer you need to look beyond nonverbal cues and focus on behavior over time.

Here are a few key things to look for to determine an individual’s actual trustworthiness.

Respect for Boundaries

Trustworthy individuals respect personal boundaries and privacy. Such that, once you have communicated a boundary, be it physical, emotional, or otherwise, they do not try and push you beyond this. Indeed, when someone is truly trustworthy, you do not need to tell them “No, I am uncomfortable with this” more than once. If you do, that’s a person to be weary of. The important part here is “more than once” because someone asking you to do or share something you are not comfortable with is not necessarily a negative reflection on their character, as they simply may not know you would be uncomfortable. Once you have communicated this boundary, however, they should respect it.

Moreover, if an individual consistently disrespects your boundaries, it’s a good indication that they do not have genuine respect for you as a person.


When someone is empathetic, it demonstrates that they understand and connect with the emotions, perspectives, and needs of others. Empathetic individuals are also more willing to consider how their actions impact others. Given this, it is unsurprising that empathetic individuals are more likely to respect your boundaries and will not act in ways that disregard your needs. Thus, before you put your trust in the hands of another individual, you want to ensure, as best you can, that they have your best interest in mind and heart. Ask yourself “does their behavior demonstrate that they care about my well-being?”


It is easy to demonstrate trustworthy behavior in the short term, maybe you go out of your way to do a good deed or put the needs of someone else above your own, but once is not enough. Short-term behavior is not a good indicator of true trustworthiness. To really recognize someone’s true character, you need to observe them over time and ask yourself “do their actions and words align, and do they follow through on their commitments”.

When people behave inconsistently, caring for you one minute but belittling you the next, it is likely that their intentions sit on the side closer to manipulation than genuine regard for your feelings. On the other hand, when individuals consistently demonstrate empathy, honesty, and integrity, you can be more confident that this is someone you are safe to put your trust in.

Of course, there are many more essential characteristics you should look for to determine trustworthiness, but you can be confident that individuals lacking the three discussed above are not.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.


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