Sunday, April 5, 2009

Who Do You Trust?

The other day, I was talking to my good friend Mark K about trust and what it means to trust. We had a lot of fun playing with the concept.

First of all, as you might have guessed, my definition of trust is a bit different than that of others. I've found that most people think of trust in terms of the sincerity or sentiment. For example, when they say, "I trust Mary", they mean, "I believe that Mary has the best of intentions for me" or "I now that Mary would never lie to me or steal from them or cheat me, etc."

I tend to think of trust more as an engineer would. For example, I might talk about a bridge or a car being trustworthy. By this, I mean that the bridge isn't going to fall down while I'm driving over it or the car is going to break down while taking a long trip. It's not about the bridge or car wanting the best for me (sentiment), it's about them behaving in a manner consistent with my expectations.

I find my model much more useful than the sincerity/sentiment model. For example, it's not a challenge for me if people lie as long as they do it predictably. If someone who promises to be on time is always ten minutes late, it's easy to incorporate that into my interactions with them. If I'm working with someone who is extremely talented, but who's ethics are not the same as mine, I don't need to make them "unethical" or decide I don't want to work with them. I simply don't rely on them for decisions that involve ethics, but instead value the skills and talents they bring to the table.

On the other hand, the best liars are the sincere ones, especially if they are sentimental. I've had my share of people who, wanting to protect my feelings, see a moral imperative to lie.

So, as Mark and I talked about this, Mark pointed out that I wasn't squeaky clean on how I actually implemented my trust model. He said that, while he liked my model, in fact, I don't operate that way. He said that instead, I tend to just trust people as a matter of course. Hmmm...

Mark gave me some great insights into this third trust model which is apparently my operational model of trust.

First, trusting someone is a unilateral exercise on our part, it has nothing to do with the other person. There's no way to know what another person's intentions are, how they will behave or what other circumstances will enter the picture. Trusting is something that each of us does independently of the situation.

Second, trusting people as a matter of course is simply a better way to live. It just feels better to spend your days with an attitude of trust towards others, rather than an attitude of mistrust.

Third, actively trusting people has this peculiar side effect of causing people to become trustworthy. It's amazing how often people show up and deliver when they know that you believe in them.

I really like Mark's model a lot. It definitely feels better to face the world with open arms, and I've experienced this remarkable side effect of people whom I trust becoming trustworthy over and over again.

So, who do you trust?


  1. Hi,
    This is a really interesting question to ponder. I have come from a place where I really didn't trust anybody because I was scared of being hurt, but being this defensive didn't work because people could still hurt me and they did. Also lack of trust in other people caused me to isolate myself from everyoe as a way to protect myself, which in turn made me more vulnerable. This was a truly miserable existence. I recently attended Optimal self trust and Calm amid chaos at the institute, and decided to turn this lack of trust around. I decided to trust people first until they proved themselves otherwise. This doesn't mean that I am going to blinker myself to what some people can do, but that I am going to come from a place of love for other people while still wanting to take care of myself. This is a much happier and I believe healthier place to be.
    What do you think?
    Alison Taylor

  2. For me TRUST is about an absence of fear. As in one trusts or one embraces some degree of fear.

    My make, or understanding, is every emotional experience is a chosen. The challange is to be awake to what we are choosing, and that we have the power to choose, then decide what one wants, as an experience of the present. It seems to me we are forever judging. Whether whatever is good/bad useful or not, and doing ourselves whether we are awake to our intentionality or not. It all comes from with ourselves, our power to choose, whether to trust, fundamentally ourselves, or not... BW

  3. Thanks for this thought-provoking post, just like the few that preceded it. I happen to agree with this third model, though like Mark, it might take another person to vouch whether I actually live by it or not.

    A point I'd like to raise about the way #2 is worded: trusting everybody is 'simply a better' way to live? Is there a universal 'better'? Maybe it would help to define all the ways in which Teflon feels it's better, starting with the 'feels better' point.

  4. I love what Alison had to say in her comment. Thank you, Alison, for sharing it. I believe too that an attitude of trust can result in a much happier experience of life. There are really interesting aspects of cause and effect here as well. Does mistrusting someone really protect me, or does my anticipation of a breech of trust result lead to that breech.

    Sree, I'm not sure what a "universal better" would be, but here are some of the specifics that work for me. I notice that I feel more relaxed and at ease when I'm trusting others. I notice that I bring a much more positive attitude to the things that I'm doing when I trust others. I notice that I'm significantly more productive when trusting others. I notice that I'm more open and experience deeper relationships when I'm trusting others.

    That's a few for me. What about you?

  5. Sorry for the delayed reply, Teflon... the only additional one I'd probably list would be that this attitude would foster more trust in others, and move the world in the direction I want.

  6. I like trusting other people, but there are people I do not trust: but it's just a decision.

    The simple case is my dog (almost human...): I trust him when we meet a female dog, I almost trust him when we meet a big dog, but I don't trust him when we meet a cain terrier.
    When I trust him, he can go free. When I almost trust him, it means: I trust him, but I keep checking if I wanna keep trusting him or not (depending on his body language) - he may never say hallo to a cain terrier.

    When I ask my girlfriend to look after my dog I'll just bring the dog and the food.
    When my mum is looking after him I used to tell her how much food she could give him, how often he needs to walk etc.
    When a girl came to walk my dog -I walked with her to see how she handled the dog.

    I would say that I trust all of them - but with different "prerequests" - and I guess that it's the same in all life situations: you gather information and then you take a decision. After that you can re-evaluate when you get new information: tale high= good, stiff walking = bad .

    Love joy


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