Recently, I taught a module on trust in my MBA class. I asked my adult students the following question.
“Do you tend to assume trust with others or must they earn your trust?”
This simple question has profound implications on how we see the world and react to the circumstances we face. The class was split about 50:50. Trust is confident reliance on someone when you are in a position of vulnerability. Trust is used to cope with personal vulnerability, conflict and decision dilemmas. Trust is a curious thing. It can take years to build trust but only seconds to destroy it. We trust (or distrust) people for different reasons including their expertise, judgment, discreteness, emotional support, integrity and execution ability.
Of course, most of us make trust decisions based on the situation and other factors but we tend to “lean or tilt” in one direction or the other. Our tilt is based on positive and negative experiences from our past including family and childhood friends; adversities we have faced and our story about how we have succeeded. This chart distinguishes different lean characteristics.
|Lean “A” – Assume Trust||Lean “E” – Earn Trust|
|I give you the benefit of the doubt, and consider you trustworthy until you do something that breaks our trust.||I only award you my trust after you’ve proven yourself worthy of it.|
|World is full of possibilities; go for it||World is a dangerous place; be careful|
|Merit will be recognized and rewarded||Survival of the fittest; watch out for yourself|
|Assume generally good intentions||Be suspicious; potentially questionable|
|Be open and honest||Be careful what you say and do|
|View of “E” leaners – Don’t be so cynical||View of “A” leaners – Don’t be naive|
For the remainder of the course our discussions noted the influence of our tilt on how we interpret both professional and personal dilemmas and make choices. Here are 10 questions we ask (mostly subconsciously) on whether to trust another person.
|Trust or Not: 10 Questions We Ask?|
|About Me (in this situation)||· How much power or authority do I have?
· What and how high are the stakes for me?
|About You (in general)||· Do you predictably fulfill your promises and commitments?|
|About You (in this situation)||· Are you capable and competent?
· Will you put yourself at risk for me?
|About Us||· Do we have good and open communication?
· How similar are we?
· Are our interests aligned?
Remember, it is not just our tilt on trust that affects our relationships. Others have leans also. Consider interactions between “A” to “A”, “E” to “E” or “A” to “E” relationships.
After one of my classes a student approached me and confessed that she had been teaching children to approach the world with caution. She could see some of the negative consequences of her teaching. Her (and our challenge) is how to find the right balance. We need people and want institutions to trust. For some it is relatively easy but for others it is hard work.
Pushing the Edge of Your Thinking