Distrust Vs. Mistrust: Using Each Correctly

distrust vs mistrust

The subtle differences between distrust vs mistrust are slight, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Understanding the nuances of the English language can be challenging, significantly when differentiating between similar-sounding words.

Two words often confusing people are ‘distrust’ and ‘mistrust.’ Both words refer to a lack of trust or confidence, and both words are based on the word trust, but there are subtle differences in their usage and connotations.

This blog post will explore these two words’ meanings, usage, and differences. While the phrases mistrust and distrust are considered synonyms, it is critical to understand the slight difference between these noun forms.

What Is Distrust?

Distrust means the complete absence or denial of trust. It often results from a negative experience or evidence that makes a person lose faith or confidence in someone or something.

Distrust is usually based on solid reasons, past actions, or proof. For example, if an employee has consistently failed to meet deadlines, their manager may distrust their ability to deliver work on time.

Furthermore, two parties can share a mutual distrust of one another.

What Is Mistrust?

On the other hand, mistrust refers to suspicion, unease, or doubt without any definitive proof or reason. It often stems from fear, uncertainty, or a gut feeling.

For instance, you might mistrust a stranger not because they have done anything to warrant your suspicion but simply because you don’t know them well enough.

It can be hard to define mistrust; often, it is a sense that something is wrong or out of place when definite knowledge is absent.

Distrust Vs. Mistrust: The Subtle Differences

While both words indicate a lack of trust, the difference lies in the reason behind this lack of trust and the degree of certainty involved.

Reason for Lack of Trust

As we’ve established, distrust often results from concrete evidence or past experiences. It’s a rational and objective response to an observed behavior that proves the entity in question is unreliable.

This sentiment isn’t spontaneous; it’s the consequence of consistent patterns or actions that have eroded faith over time.

For instance, consider a politician who has been found guilty of corruption. People would distrust this individual based on the concrete evidence of their proven corrupt behavior. The trust is broken because of the politician’s actions, which are factual and verifiable. In this case, distrust is not merely a feeling but a conclusion drawn from observable facts.

Similarly, distrust can stem from betrayal, infidelity, or relationship dishonesty. These tangible experiences can lead to a profound sense of distrust. Unresolved childhood pain, unmet needs, or adverse experiences can also be the root causes of distrust.

Mistrust, on the other hand, is more subjective and often about intuition or a gut feeling. It’s an emotion that stems from fear, uncertainty, or doubt, even when there’s no definitive proof or reason. This lack of trust is less about the facts and more about personal feelings and perceptions.

For example, you might mistrust a stranger, not because they’ve done anything to warrant your suspicion, but because you don’t know them well enough, and your intuition signals caution. Similarly, you might mistrust a politician simply because they belong to a particular party or due to their rhetoric, despite there being no concrete evidence of wrongdoing.

Degree of Certainty

When examining the degree of certainty between distrust and mistrust, it’s clear that the former implies a definite lack of trust. Distrust is categorical and leaves little room for ambiguity. It firmly believes that the person or entity is untrustworthy, often based on factual evidence or personal experiences.

For instance, a lack of trust can form in relationships if one partner continually questions the other’s activities, words, or actions. This distrust leads to problems and is typically rooted in concrete reasons, like past betrayals or dishonesty.

On the other hand, Mistrust suggests a doubt or suspicion, which may or may not be justified. It’s a more fluid state of mind that leaves room for change. When you say you mistrust someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve entirely written them off. There’s a chance your opinion could shift with time or additional information.

For example, fear of vulnerability or losing control can cause mistrust in a relationship. This mistrust isn’t always based on the partner’s actions but personal insecurities and anxieties. It’s a state of uncertainty that could be resolved as the person works through their fears.

While distrust and mistrust represent a lack of trust, their origin and certainty differ. Distrust is a definitive stance based on concrete evidence or experiences, whereas mistrust is a tentative doubt often rooted in personal fear or uncertainty.

Using Distrust and Mistrust Correctly

Understanding these two terms’ differences can help you use them correctly in your conversations and writing.

Use ‘distrust’ when expressing a definitive lack of trust based on evidence or experience. Use ‘mistrust’ when you want to convey suspicion or doubt without any concrete reason.

For example, “I distrust the promises made by the salesperson because he has lied to me in the past.” Here, the distrust is based on a negative experience.

On the other hand, “I mistrust the way he looks at me, although I can’t quite put my finger on why.” Here, the mistrust is based on intuition, a gut feeling, without solid reason.

Final Thoughts

While both ‘distrust’ and ‘mistrust’ denote a lack of trust, they are used in different contexts. Distrust is more definitive and usually based on concrete evidence or experiences, while mistrust involves suspicion or doubt, often without solid reason.

Understanding these subtle differences can enhance your communication skills and help you express your thoughts more accurately.

Contact ADR Times for educational courses and training materials if you want to learn more about the differences between mistrust and distrust, negotiation tactics, communication skills, mediation, or alternative dispute resolution.


ADR Times
error: ADR Times content is protected.