Build trust

The loss of trust leaves us with a feeling of emptiness at best, and with deep grief in some cases. You don’t have to look far to find people and things we’ve lost trust in lately – superheroes, huge corporations, political parties, on and on.

The word “trust” is just so danged big. We hear it all the time but are hard-pressed to define it. A client recently told me that part of his code of life is to trust no one. Francis Fukuyama in his book “Trust” writes about cultural differences in how we decide to give or withhold our trust. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “How can I ever trust them again?”

I ponder the word often, and keep coming up with these viewpoints about the concept of trust:

Take it apart

As I said earlier, the word is just too big. One of my friends I trust to be late for every meeting. And still I would trust him with the care of my six-month-old granddaughter.

I trust one of my family members to lie on a regular basis – it seems compulsive. And…I trust she loves me deeply and would pop out of bed at three in the morning to come to my aid if I needed her.

So I tend to ask the question, “What do you trust about a person or organization?” It’s just hard for me to see it as all or nothing.

Reciprocity of experience

For most of us, trust builds or dies as we experience a relationship over time. In a published conversation with Dick Cavett, David Brooks said, “…trust is about reciprocity. About establishing a pattern of communication and then cooperative volleys that get coated by emotional and moral commitment.” We establish our own thresholds of tolerance for a missed lunch appointment or failure to return a phone call. We heal these little wounds with honest conversation and go on…or create a story and decide that’s it, I won’t trust him again. The story usually puts a bad light on us. “He’s got more important people to see than me I guess!” “Ignored my phone call, well that tells me how much he cares!”

Use your intuition

My wise friend Pat Costello teaches about the “head brain” and the “gut brain.” Both need to be involved in most decisions. Still, our “gut” or intuition may be smarter than our logical minds about trust if we keep the static turned down.

Usually I listen respectfully to intuition but have in my memory a few times when I didn’t and paid a price. When I relocated many years ago, I wanted to establish a banking relationship in the new town. My former banker had advised me to shop around, find a bank where I felt comfortable. At the second bank I tried, the president listened with a bored expression as I talked about my banking needs — until I mentioned that I had a fairly large check from the sale of my house and wanted to get it deposited in an account. He jumped out of his chair then, all over me with customer service. Of course, my gut sent out alarms, and I did not listen. That came back to haunt me later. I regretted giving my trust to that institution.

Set positive expectations

Our ability to anticipate is a marvelous gift. However, I think we have a hard time recognizing how powerful, how hypnotizing that inner voice can be. If you’re recruiting and expect that only a bunch of know-nothings will apply for your positions, you set the stage for a negative outcome. I don’t recommend a Miss Merry Sunshine attitude, but do believe we can trust in the possibility of a positive outcome in most of our endeavors. (Even a tee shot.) And, I believe that a positive expectation has some slippery influence on the outcome.

Trust yourself

The bottom line seems to be building — and rebuilding — trust in your own ability to deal with whatever happens. You might place huge trust in another person, and then a brick falls on her head and she changes into a hateful double-crosser. You then have a choice to “protect” yourself by never trusting again, or by checking out what you need to do in order to respond to such a traumatic change.

If a trusted employee steals cash from your company, it will cause chaos in many ways. Again you can choose to never, ever allow another employee anywhere near the books or the cash register — or figure out how you can trust and feel safe at the same time.

There are ways to rebuild trust. They do not include making excuses, lying, cover-ups or promises. Still, it is possible and may include fierce conversations, changes in the relationship, and reciprocal experiences over time. Not always possible, but sometime it works and is worth it.

I’d like to know your thoughts about this big word, “trust.”

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