The act of trusting others has been a matter of discussion for centuries. While some believe that trust is a feeling or an instinct, there are contemporary schools of thought that believe trust is more of a science: something which both the ‘trusting’ and the ‘trusted’ individuals can control.
As social beings, we have created societies in which rules, norms and values make it possible for us to go on with our lives. As a community, we rely on each other on a daily basis, expecting the bus driver to take us to work, the barista at the coffee-shop to serve us a nice drink and doctors to take care of us when we are ill. We continually expect things from others, whether they be politicians, co-workers, friends or family. If these expectations fail to be met, we can feel disappointed, frustrated and let down.
As humans, we are reliant creatures. We rely on objects as much as we rely on other human beings: we rely on our smartphones to give us directions, and expect our alarm clock to wake us up every morning. Regardless of country, culture and language, reliance is part of our daily routine, and it is closely linked to trust. In order to rely on someone, we have to trust that they can, and will, deliver what we expect of them.
So what makes us trust people? On the surface, trust seems to be intangible; a feeling similar, to some extent, to faith and belief. The earliest instances of the word in the English language carried connotations of religious faith and, even today, the word ‘trust’ implies a certain lack of logical and systematic reasoning. It is possible, however, to find reasons not to trust someone. Have they let you down in the past? Has anyone described them as untrustworthy? Have they said or done something that led you to think you shouldn’t trust them? And, if we are able to tell why someone can’t be trusted, shouldn’t it be just as easy to recognise why we can trust someone?
Trust, like respect and credibility, is something that has to be earned, and there are several ways to achieve this:
Trust me, I can do this
Prove to the other party that you are qualified to do the task in hand. You can either show them what you have done in the past, or use your expertise and knowledge to demonstrate your competence.
Trust me, I look like I can do this
Appearances can of course be deceiving, but the way in which you present yourself could make all the difference. Looking composed, calm and self-assured is of the utmost importance. It’s not enough to feel confident about your abilities; you need to transmit that sense of confidence to the other person.
Trust me, I’ve done this before, and they can tell you all about it
Whether it’s your university tutor, your former employer or your first client, there will be someone you’ve helped successfully and they will be able, and willing, to tell others about it.
Trust me, I said I would do this, therefore I will
Once you have convinced someone to trust you, don’t flake! Keep your promises and, if that is for some reason impossible, explain the situation, apologise and find a way to make it up to them.
Human beings may be emotional creatures who usually act upon feeling, but even behind the most instinctive decisions lies a rational explanation. To quote American businessman Stephen Covey, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships”. In a world where people are starting to share their houses, cars and other possessions with individuals from all across the globe, it is essential that we build the necessary structures to enable trust and safe trading.