Who Do You Trust?

I fell down again the other day. I was crossing the street, didn’t see that the ramp had a curb and my rollator’s front wheels stuck.  As my rollator fell over, so did I. I skinned my knuckles and banged my knee. I’m fine. I was thrilled I didn’t hit my head.

Two lovely people ran across the street to help me get up. I have no idea who these people are, or what they do. The gentleman was strong—big biceps! He helped me stand up and get the rollator back in my hands. The gentlewoman was solicitous: “Do you need anything, dear?”

Nope, I was fine once I got my feet underneath me.

That got me thinking about trust. I trusted them to help me stand up. They trusted me to be a reasonable human and not prey on their good Samaritan helpfulness.

We trust each other like this all the time. These people are part of our support systems, formal or informal.

Sometimes, we don’t trust others.

What creates the conditions for trust? I read Trust and Trust Building, a fascinating essay. In a sense, I trusted these people to be benevolent to me. I trusted their ability to help me stand up. They trusted me to stand, once they helped me up. They trusted me to not abuse our interaction.

We build trust—or try to—in our teams all the time. Have you considered how people might build trust in your organization?

  • Once you deliver (and continue to deliver), you build trust
  • Explaining the conditions under which you can succeed (or know when you might fail) builds trust. See my post What Creates Trust in Your Organization?
  • Extending trust first earns you trust in return

What happens when someone breaks trust with you? (It happens.)

It depends on many things. How important was the result and what’s the context?

Maybe the two of you were experimenting and the experiment didn’t succeed. That’s not breaking trust—that’s early learning. However, if all you do is “learn early,” and not deliver, no one earns any trust.

If the trust break was over something personal, you might not be able to recreate the original relationship. Each person will need to earn trust from the other. Even then, the original trust might not be attainable.

Is it worth the effort to regain trust with this other person?

Note that I talked about the other person. You can’t develop trust in an inanimate object. You either trust it or not. The object is either deterministic or not. (You can represent a deterministic object with a finite state machine.) Yes, sometimes finite state machines break. However, otherwise they work the same way all the time. My car turns on the same way each time I turn it on. That’s what I mean by deterministic.

On the other hand, people are wonderfully not deterministic. People are capable of learning, of change, of doing something different, even under similar circumstances.

Once you know what you need to do, you can build trust if you desire, with people. You can extend the trust you build with one person to a team. Once teams build trust with each other, they can help the organization achieve great things. It all depends on trust.

My dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question of the week: Who do you trust?

5 thoughts on “Who Do You Trust?”

  1. For me trust in such a situation is also because they did not rescue you.
    You knew you had a problem, so you were open for help.

    Imagine the same man would run up to you, because he knew the road and the curb in the ramp.
    Most people would try to get away from the men faster and might actually be more hurt.

    For me the difference between helping and rescuing is the most clear in an empty metro station, when it’s late at night. Imagine you walk there and some papers will fall out of you bag. (yet you don’t know)
    you walk there and you hear some footsteps behind you.
    you walk faster, as you might not feel safe.
    because you walk faster, the papers move also and the risk is higher that they will fall.
    the person behind you, now sees this and wants to help so he goes faster.
    you hear faster footsteps and a quick look, made you see a large strong man.
    so you speed up even more…
    Now your papers fall on the floor. When I ask people about this, and ask would you stop for the papers, most women tell me no, I would run.

    Now imagine you are just there walking alone and the papers fall. You are on the floor gathering the papers and then the same man approaches you to help you. Here as you know you need help, most women accept the help. (Where it is the same risk.)

    So trust also depends on what you know about your own problem.

    And also about the help you need.

    I trust you with many things, yet I don’t trust you to do brain surgery on me. (And I’m pretty sure, neither do you trust me for that…) so that is also an import part of trust between two people.

    I’m a person who trust people by default, and more then most people, yet I have not met anyone I trust to do brain surgery on me… ;-)

    1. Yves, I like that distinction between being open for help and not being rescued. I have to tell people who take my elbow and try to “help” me, that they are making my vertigo worse. I am better off alone, and I will ask for help. Many of them look disappointed.

      Your situation of what would happen in the evening in a deserted metro station is interesting to me. When people feel safe, they can accept help. When they don’t feel safe, they feel as if someone might have an agenda. Thanks for bringing this situation to our attention.

      I’m glad you don’t trust me for brain surgery. I’m not qualified! (But I do know several people who are! :-)

  2. in one of my next talks, I plan to ask people, who trusts me, and then show a picture of me in docters outfit and an operation room, telling them I will do now brain surgery ;-)

    The situation in the deserted metro is not only about feeling safe. It’s also about knowing you need help.

    My one thing I want to I want to change most, is making people more ask for help. People can only ask for help, when they are not rescued. We live in a world were we force help on people and then are wondering why they are so unwilling to accept help.


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