How to Build Trust

Close your eyes and picture the word trust. Take some time to think about what the word means to you and try to define it. I attempted this same exercise which I am asking you to try. Lets see if our definitions align.

As human beings, we experience our lives through our values and perspective. This means that things become important to us and vice versa based on the emotion or experiences that we attach to that thing or event. Lets use a number system to attach value. 0 being absolutely no value and 20 meaning that this thing means so much. The higher on that value scale the thing is, the more of your focus you put into it. Take for example you are responsible for a task, that means that that task is now pretty high on your scale of value or a locket that you received as an heirloom from your grandparent who has passed on. There is a lot of emotional value attached to it.

When Person B (Blake) asks Person A (Ashley) to trust him, he is basically saying that that thing, event or anything thing that is high on Ashley’s scale (between 18-20) becomes important or is now high on his scale (also between 18-20). The problem is that Blake does not think about what that really means. Or rather, he cannot really fully appreciate how important it is to her because they do not have the same emotion attached to the thing. I believe that this is why so many times trust gets broken.

When Blake says that he evaluates this thing as being 18-20, he is telling Ashley that she can bring her focus on it down to a 2-5 because he will compensate for the missing focus. He will add the missing value. She does not have to focus on it as much because he will do that for her and to believe that it is high on his scale as it is on hers.

I once read somewhere that Trust is believing that a person will act the same way they did in the past. The first time Ashley “trusts”‘ Blake, she does not actually trust him. She is testing him to see if he will follow through. The more he does as he promises, the more her scale on that item goes down. The more he continues to validate her belief in him, the more her scale goes down. However instant he betrays her beliefs, her scale shoots right back up and she starts to think. “I cannot trust Blake”.

I believe that the reason people eventually fall short on the promises they make to others is because they do not have that emotional connection to the thing. Their scale on that item might be at a 20 but slowly, the secondhand value they attach to it, which is not as powerful, slips from their focus faster and subsequently slides down the scale faster.

When Blake lets Ashley down, he feels bad and that adds some personal value to this promise for them and it probably goes back up to a more solid 20. There is another problem though. Ashley’s scale is also back at a 20.. There will definitely be a clash when Ashley cannot trust Blake to keep his original promise. To Blake though, this promise has some value and he knows it will not happen again.

Take for example, Ashley asks Blake to complete a task. Blake consistently performs this task properly. At first Ashley’s scale is at a 20 but each time Blake completes the task properly, her scale goes down, until it sits at a comfortable 2. This means that she isnt even double checking any more.she is so confident that Blake has completed this task perfectly..

In that same scenario, Blake’s scale is slowly going down because he does not place as much value in the task. It doesn’t mean as much to him so the focus that he originally placed on it is going to the immediacy of his own life and slowly this task is taking a back burner. It then makes sense that eventually something would get missed. Something would happen.Blake does not put as much effort into the task and it some how falls through.

Ashley is now caught off guard. She has placed this important task to her at a 2 and it did not get done. This task continues to be important to her, so her scale jumps drastically back to a 20. Blake realizing that he have made an error also has his scale jump back to 20. This time it is now a solid 20 because this time it affected his values. Maybe Blake believes in keeping his promise, that his word is his bond. Maybe he did not like the feeling of letting Ashley down. Notice these are personal feelings now. When things get personal, they gain immense focus. It affected his values and probably made him question himself. While his previous 20 was a shaky 20 because there was no real emotion behind it. This 20 is stronger. It could even be stronger than Ashley’s depending on the values he hold himself to.

I believe that this is the level that most human beings are at at the moment. Most are not sure how to go beyond this. “I trusted them and they let me down. I’ll never trust them again.” That means that Ashley’s scale may never go down for Blake again and it might go down slower for Cameron and when the cycle repeats because of the same reasons, it will go down slower for Demi, until the scale just does not go down anymore and Ashley says, “I can’t trust anyone. They always let me down.”

I used to imagine trust as myself hanging on the edge of a bottomless, black cliff and the person asking me to trust them was asking me to let go of the cliff edge and let them pull me up from that cliff. I’d imagine that they had their hands out stretched to me and that when that person eventually let me down, it would be like dropping me down that deep, dark cliff. Powerful imagery right? If that is how I visualize trust, would I EVER trust anyone?

We need to break past this level, this barrier. We cannot go around not trusting anyone. I think the first thing way to do this is to really question how we define trust. How do you visualize trusting someone? If your way is anything life mine then that needs to change. Instead of lack of trust being represented by falling into a deep, dark abyss, imagine it as a stumble. We can all correct a stumble. It doesn’t have to destroy our progress.

We next need to explain to our own Person Bs why this thing is important to us. We need to be prepared for the eventuality of that person letting us down. The thing is, I really think that part is necessary for true trust. If person B does not place any real value on the thing or event then it is a superfluous trust anyway. Its when person B puts value in it by making a mistake, that is when real trust can develop. Not only that. It builds your character. When you can see outside of your own perspective, you grow as a person.

A friend told me a story he had read in a book about a pilot and an engineer. The engineer made an error that nearly cost the pilot his life. Instead of the pilot saying he would never trust engineers again or would double check or what not. He told the engineer to make sure that that never happened again. While I am sure that the engineer cared about his job, he was not the one flying the planes regularly so he was probably hamming the job. The error that could have cost others their lives and the subsequent forgiveness but with a warning, added value to the tasks and made it personal. His tasks became solid 20’s and the fact that the pilot would trust him again meant that now that trust had value to him. He would never mess up like that again.

Our society is so “me” driven though, that we struggle to see outside of our selves. When that Person B betrays our trust, we cannot allow our dial to go back up to 20. It it goes back up, we will double check and triple check and they will think that we do not trust them. This will then make their own dials slowly go back down. Why would anyone focus their important time on someone who did not believe in them.

Besides then what would be the point? We would just be doing everything ourselves and there would be no true delegation. There would be no faith in each other. Friends would secretly be waiting for the other to “stab them in the back”. Supervisors would be anticipating their subordinates messing up and would become controlling. Relationships would end on slightest idea of betrayal.

Instead, before we put the trust in that person, we should speak to them and let them know why that thing was important to us. This adds stronger value to it to them rather than just telling them it is important. Inevitably, when they break that trust, we should forgive them and explain why breaking that trust affected us. We should let them know that we will not stop trusting them. That person is already beating themselves up about the situation. By talking to them and still putting trust in them we will further solidify their resolve to never let it happen again.

On the flip side, we cannot make it seem casual, like it did not matter. We cannot say that it was okay. It was not okay. When we do that, we again remove the urgency in them and they will no longer give it as much focus and will continue to let us down and we will be back to feeling like we cannot depend on anyone.

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