What's happened to trusting people around us?

Remember a time when you could trust your neighbour to look after your house?

When children played in the streets until the street lights came on, and you took people for their word.

When you weren’t suspicious of people’s motives or worried about someone ripping you off.

It seems like those days are long gone.

Nowadays it seems like we’re always waiting for people to break our trust.

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I know that I have trouble trusting people.

It makes me wonder, when did we stop trusting the people around us and why?

Turning on the evening news or flicking through social media shows us countless examples of why we shouldn’t trust people.

Think about some of the cases that have made the news — the tragedies and injustices in the world.

The death of Mason Lee and the abduction and murder of Daniel Morcombe have taught us we can’t trust other people around our children.

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The rape and murder of Jill Meagher, the endless phone and internet scams – they all seem to be making us more and more wary of the people around us.

In his book The Leap, author Ulrich Boser writes that we’re not supposed to trust others.

“Look at the headlines. Read the blogs. Study the survey data,” he writes.

“It seems that everyone is wary, that everyone is looking out for themselves.”

Have we taken our trust issues as a society too far?

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How many of us have family and friends that we wouldn’t trust?

In a world where affairs and divorce are on the world, we’re taught to be suspicious in our relationships.

We’re suspicious of family, particularly when it comes to money.

And we can be suspicious of the motives of our friends.

Read more: Why do so many people die at the hands of someone they trust?

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It’s not just the people immediately around us that we don’t trust.

We’ve lost trust in our politicians and leaders, and the professionals around us.

Trust in politicians has shrunk against those of us over 50.

A recent survey, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, found trust in politicians has hit a 20-year low.

Almost a quarter of older Australians had no trust in politicians, while just 5% said they trusted politicians “very much”.

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Studies of our most trusted professions also have found us trusting professionals less and less, particular sales people.

Read more: Australia’s most (and least) trusted professions

So is everyone really out to lie, cheat and swindle us?

Think about the saying if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

With all the bad things happening in the world, we tell our kids and grandkids not to speak to strangers and wrap them in cotton wool in case they hurt themselves or others.

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Could it be that we’re teaching our children and grandchildren to trust each other less?

A survey of Millenials – those born from the mid-90’s onwards – shows just 19% believe most people can be trusted.

Those of us from the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation on the other hand were most trusting, with 40% and 37% believing most people are trustworthy.

While those numbers seem okay, they’ve fallen from nearly 50% 30 years ago.

You might be thinking, how can we trust people more without getting burnt?

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Boser writes that trust can’t be forced.

“When it comes to trust, building faith in friends and family is often relatively easy,” he says.

“What’s harder — and, frankly, far more important — is building faith in people outside of your group.”

Next time someone says trust me, have a think about why it is you might not trust them and how you could change that.

Some people might be pleasantly surprising.

Have you found yourself struggling to trust people? Do you think we’re losing our ability to trust as a society?