Why is it that people trust each other?
On the surface, that question might sound elementary. We trust other people because we… trust them. We know them. We’ve built a relationship with them. They… look trustworthy! Right? Maybe.
When you hail a cab or Uber in a foreign country, do you trust the driver to take you to your destination? When you place a first-time order from a third party residing across the country (or world), do you trust them to send you the item you purchased? When you give your money to a bank teller you’ve never seen before, do you trust him or her to put it in your account? When you start a new job, do you trust your supervisor or the leaders of the company?
When we start dissecting trust and how it informs our relationships, it becomes obvious that we place a lot of trust in people we barely know or don’t know at all. Conversely (and hopefully), people place their trust in us even when we are unknown to them.
From a macro-level perspective, neuroscience research has demonstrated that societies, where trust is high, are more open, developed, and happier. At the same time, a society where trust has been broken between organizations or between people, often experience social unrest. In fact, if trust dips low enough, then the number of deceivers and cheaters rises which erodes our societal values and contentment.[i]
How then can we define trust? Merriam-Webster says trust is the “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed.”[ii]
One helpful definition, from a neuroscience perspective, that should particularly resonate with leaders is that trust is “a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another.”[iii]
In other words, leaders who express vulnerability and are open instead of closed and standoffish are more likely to build trust and been seen as trustworthy.
Reliance, character, confidence, vulnerability, expectations, and behavior. What could possibly go wrong?
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For more information on “(Re)Building Trust: A Trauma-informed Approach to Leadership,” please visit my website mrchrisfreeze.com.