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Trust: Human Risk Management

Posted on 2012.07.01 at 00:25
Current Location: 67114
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In attempting to ascertain a baseline for different levels of trust from which to work with, I was inundated with numerous seemingly conflicting ideas: "personal, paradoxical, positively correlated" (the three P's*); "community, crowd, core" (the three C's*); and "deterrence-based, knowledge-based, identity-based" (basis*) to name a few. But trust me when I say there is no universally accepted metric to definitively identify differing levels of trust. Enter the dictionary & Wikipedia:

trust [truhst]

1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.

Trust is believing that the person who is trusted will do what is expected; Success results in feelings of security, trust, and optimism.

Yikes, expectation! From well-adjusted folk this would sound reasonable. From someone with less than a firm grasp on the practical application of flexibility in the face of adversity we could be looking at disappointment due to cognitively distorted fortune telling or wishful thinking. That aside, I feel better about someone else's feelings of security and optimism when I'm not being held responsible for them - not that I shirk that level of responsibility, simply that feelings can be slippery, elusive things compared to reality and I try not to place myself in situations where ubiquitous results can make someone feel the opposite of what is actually transpiring. Long ago I learned that logic is a very poor defense against unwarranted feelings.

These barriers aside, trust needs to exist between people - so how best to gain trust, and perhaps more importantly, cultivate it; grow it?

Irregardless of whether its a "P" or a "C" or a "basis" view of trust, the first level is universally similar in its fundamentalism - the lowest level of trust based primarily upon rules. Rules in place to not give one party undue advantage over another, and setting guideline for expectations and results. Quantifiable metrics. Low risk, no one is harmed.

The next universally accepted level seems to be rooted in knowledge - past performance being indicative of future results and all that - which most would agree is a bit of a gamble. Thing could go awry. Things can always go awry, but we're pretending we're well-adjusted folk in this exercise and would compensate and adapt accordingly with a minimum of fanfare if it did. "P" says of this level that "trust is a higher-level relationship. The trust-creating thing to do is often the opposite of what your baser passions tell you to do." Baser passions. An intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something. Ergo, those of us who react emotionally won't be able to sustain this level of trust without first incorporating equal parts logic into our equation. "P" goes on to say, "Fight or flight, self-preservation, the instinct to win—these are not the motives that drive trust. The ultimate paradox is that, by rising above such instincts, you end up getting better results than if you had striven for them in the first place." To trust, you have to let go. I take this to mean that those of us who rely solely upon logic are going to require equal parts emotion to make it work as well. "C" describes it as, "demonstration of trustworthy behavior" and Trustedadvisor.com says, "But trust can also make you blind because it can make it harder to see opportunities that arise outside established relationships." What is it you wish to gain from trust, and why? Is it worth the risk of missing out on something greater?

And here's where I make my usual interjection that 90% of population is capable of experiencing, based on my past findings which incorporate icebergs, pyramids and bare-assed midgets on tricycles.

So what does the final 10% of the population get to experience trust-wise? Let me tell you in a word: Risk.

A trust relationship cannot exist without someone taking a chance. If you think, I can’t take that kind of risk yet because there’s not enough trust in the relationship, check your thinking. It is the very taking of risks that creates trust in the relationship.*

It would appear throughout that trust is rife with risk. But those of us who are adept at character-building know how to successfully manage risk. Why risk it at all? Plainly, reward. I extrapolate that only 10% of us ever reach this level because a lot of the same words we've bantered about here are used in the definitions. To reach this level of trust according to each of these sources we're going to absolutely require vulnerability and transparency. No, I'm not making this up. Check this out:

  • Vulnerability

    • This level of trust is characterized by the parties knowing the hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities of each other. These relationships have the highest levels of trust because they also have the highest levels of vulnerability.*

  • Transparency

    • This level of trust means that you know my hopes, dreams, goals, ambitions, fears, and doubts. I trust you at this level because over the course of time I have increased my level of transparency and vulnerability with you and you haven’t taken advantage of me.*

As for me, you can trust me to do what I say I'm going to do. I call this 'global' trust - not given to specificity alone, but applied to every instance, all the time.

The reality is trust just happens. Subject it too much scrutiny and you destroy its essence. Maybe the answer lies in striking some sort of balance and healthy skepticism.*

Beware of distrust or a lack of trust, which is an entirely different beast - you empower that which you fear.* That is to say, whatever you fear will absolutely come to pass.

Fear wisely.


michelle1963 at 2012-07-01 13:44 (UTC) (Link)
Trust is believing that the person who is trusted will do what is expected; Success results in feelings of security, trust, and optimism.

Expected? Yikes indeed! Even well-adjusted individuals can fall into the expectation trap if not careful. This almost always plays out with the false assumption that everyone with whom we hold some affiliation is exactly like us. Yes, written out like that it sounds ridiculous, because we logically understand that people have had a different set of experiences in life and even if they profess the same general values, how this manifests behaviorally at times will be different ~ because of those different experiences in life. But the false assumption of "like us" tends to be an emotional judgment not a rational one.

My dad always said, "You can trust everyone. You trust them to be who they are ~ not who you expect them to be."

Why the disconnect between logic and emotion on this issue?

Fundamentally, it has to do with egocentrism. Emotionally, many tend to view themselves as the center of the universe. Not that they are aware of it. However being able to see everyone as an individual whose thoughts and feelings have validity equal to our own is a far more abstract realization. It takes much work ~ conscious thought, mindfulness if you will ~ to bring that rather abstract idea into one's emotional reality.

How this plays out in the issue of trust is that those who are prone to emotional egocentrism tend to view other people within the context of who that person is to them. What niche they fill in their lives. They do not see themselves or other people as fully separate individuals in which their individual lives are at times intertwined. They see themselves first, and then how everything and everyone relates them. Other people become part of their group that they label "us." And it is that label that leads to the false assumption that those with whom they affiliate are exactly like them and going to always behave as they would.

Unfortunately, this is a distortion of reality, and while it may work well for awhile, it almost always comes back to bite. This "us" feeling of trust can often be the most rigid, demanding that all members maintain the same thoughts and feelings, viewing slight variations with suspicion, and feeling that a small difference of opinion is a full blown argument.

Tough way to live.
ehowton at 2012-07-02 02:57 (UTC) (Link)
I've been reading a new book, "Speak Peace in a World of Conflict" about non-violent communication for conflict resolution and a lot of what you say here I ran across for the first time in this book - Other people become part of their group that they label "us." Fascinating read, and wonderful, wonderful comment! I especially love the quote from your dad. Damn that rings true.
michelle1963 at 2012-07-01 14:08 (UTC) (Link)
As for me, you can trust me to do what I say I'm going to do. I call this 'global' trust - not given to specificity alone, but applied to every instance, all the time.

This is the metric I use as well. You can trust me to do what I say I am going to do. It is also the metric I use to relate to other people ~ did the individual do what s/he said s/he was going to do to the best of his/her ability? I put the last caveat in there, because I am one of the "well-adjusted folk" who understands that sometimes no matter the effort put forth, circumstances can foil.

The thing of it is, is that many people confuse the idea of trust with whether or not they like your course of action. Doesn't matter whether you were honest, shared all of your reasoning, and perhaps even if your reasoning was understood; all that matters is whether the other person in question "liked" what you shared. If not, then in their eyes, you've broken trust.

Again, this situation occurs when dealing with the emotionally egocentric. It is not within their realm of understanding that you may have different feelings, ideas, needs than they do. That is simply not permissible.
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