Estimated Lesson Time: 7 minutes (self-evaluated option) / less than a minute (instructor-evaluated option)
It seems as if people like to dish out advice on trust just as much as new parents like to give advice on pregnancy. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests, “Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” William Shakespeare advises, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” And famed writer Stanislaw Lem cautions, “Do not trust people. They are capable of greatness.” Well, when it comes to giving advice on trust, I am no different. It is not only your trust in others, but the level of trust that others have in you that play an important role in success.
Trust is defined as a firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing. For this lesson, we will focus on trust in people (with one mention of a dog). Trust is not mere reliability. You may rely on a delivery boy to deliver confidential documents across town, but you may not trust that he will not read the documents. You may trust your teenage child to make the right choices when it comes to drugs, but you may not always rely on him or her to be home exactly when asked. Trust is not global. I trust my dog alone with my two young children, but I would never trust him alone near an open pizza box. Trust is not absolute. You may trust a new babysitter enough to watch your children the moment you hire her, but it can take years to build a deep level of trust to the point where you are truly comfortable.
You must trust others, as well as earn the trust of others, in order to get ahead. Trust is the foundation of all professional relationships, friendships, and love. Although you may excel in other parts of your life, without trust in your relationships, success will be just out of your reach.
Begin by learning to place your trust in others. You cannot reach success on your own; everyone depends on others for something. But trust goes beyond mere dependability. I like to think of those I trust more as extensions of myself who can help with my purpose. A key element of success is surrounding yourself with people you can trust.
Unfortunately, people become “hardened” over time due to bad experiences of misplaced trust. These people tend to close the door on trust and adopt the “trust nobody” attitude of the overly cautious, sentencing themselves to a life where success is just out of reach. Forgive the cliché, but don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. When others betray your trust, learn from the experience; just do not give up on trust altogether.
So when can you trust someone? While there are no hard rules, I can share this advice.
- Define the worst. What will happen if they betray your trust? What is the worst that can happen? Can you accept that? What is the probability that the worst will happen? In my former company, I created a position for independent contractors who would provide support for our customers. These contractors basically had the keys to our unique business model. I was often warned that a contractor can steal our idea and enter the market as a competitor. I was willing to accept this risk and put my trust in those whom I chose for the position. Sure enough, the worst did happen, and it certainly cost us business. However, we were still able to build a 20 million dollar business. Without this trust, we would have been forced into a more traditional business model that would have almost certainly failed.
- Give those you place your trust in reason not to betray you. The mob uses the fear of death, but you may choose something a little less Godfather-ish. Review Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy for some ideas.
- Trust by association. If someone you trust, trusts a third person, you can establish an initial trust by association. This is one of the reasons recommendations are so valuable.
- Learn to read character. This is not something that can be done overnight. Reading character takes time and practice. Ask yourself the question, “Do I feel that this person will look out for my best interests?” Once you ask yourself this question, you will be in tune with the signs that will give you the answer.
- Do they have a motive? Do they have any reason for betraying your trust? In my example under “define the worst,” the contractor who betrayed my trust was a young, bright, ambitious guy who frequently talked about not making enough money. All the signs were there; I was just too naive recognize them.
- Do they have a history? Once again, recommendations and referrals can play an important part in trust. If others were betrayed by this person, you might be wise to make that person earn your trust first.
Once you allow yourself to trust others, others will be more likely to trust you. Here are some more suggestions on how you can be seen as more trustworthy.
- Prove yourself. Prove that you are looking out for their best interests as well as your own. In a sales situation, a salesperson looking to establish trust might sit down with the prospect and discuss their particular needs, and advise the prospect of what options would not work for them and why. Then, present the prospect with the option that will work for them.
- Don’t lie. Once you tell a lie, you start a chain of supporting lies that will often grow out of control, and you will eventually be called on one of your lies. At this point, any trust that has been established is most likely destroyed.
- Do what you say, and do it when you say you are going to do it. Yes, reliability and dependability are not the same as trust, but trust is difficult to earn if you are not reliable or dependable.
Trust is a key element to success. Allow yourself to be more trusting, while still being cautious. Make it easier for others to put their trust in you by becoming more trustworthy. And remember that deep trust may take a lifetime to build, but only takes minutes to destroy.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)