After “Boundaries,” an important characteristic of someone who is trustworthy is reliability (“R” in the BRAVING acronym). This may seem fairly obvious—after all, we all intuitively know that someone who doesn’t follow through on promises and commitments is harder to trust.

But what we may not notice or think deeply about is why it is that people (ourselves including!) can be, at times, unreliable. We may assume that reliability a something ingrained rather than a habit we can change about ourselves.  Fortunately, just like setting boundaries, reliability is a skill we can practice. But first we have to understand what gets in the way.

Part of reliability is being aware of our own strengths and weaknesses—our own limitations and competencies—so that we know when to ask for help, and we know when we’re in over our head. Often times, we may feel shame that we aren’t already experts at something or or feel embarrassed to ask for help from others, whether it’s at work or at home.

But an important part of reliability is being able to accurately assess our own limits and communicate them to others. Sometimes this might involve seeking out professional development in a particular area in which we are weak; sometimes it might mean asking someone else to work alongside you on a project (or even to take over a task or project if you are overwhelmed or over-committed). But most importantly it involves clear communication: accurately assessing and communicating your limits, and what you need to complete whatever task you’ve undertaken.

Sometimes the limit to our productivity and reliability may be skills-based, other times we may become unreliable through over-committing ourselves. This is where self-care and setting boundaries come in to play.

When we can prioritize self-care and own it as a necessary part of our productivity at work, it becomes easier for us to see our limits. When we feel free to set boundaries in our professional and personal lives, we are free to choose what we commit to. We can choose to commit to the things that matter the most to us (or the things that need to be done!) and minimize the likelihood of over-committing. Thus increasing our reliability and trustworthiness.

It’s important to notice when people in our life aren’t reliable and make choices to improve our personal safety accordingly. Sometimes it can be hard to accept that someone who is perpetually unreliable is also not as trustworthy as we may need them to be.


What are your thoughts on increasing feelings of safety around people we experience as unreliable? Share your thoughts below.

Overcoming Barriers to Reliability, Earning Trust

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