Friday, April 8, 2016

Trust - Ebbs and Flows

I find myself thinking about trust a great deal lately - it is another of those life things that seems to be rising to the surface enough that I should likely pay attention to it. A friend of mine in fact just said

"Trust once lost, is hard to regain."

Which is why I am now sitting here typing out this post.

From a very young age I found that I was able to read people fairly well. I was certainly not perfect at it as 'reading' someone is a bit of an inexact science but I found I was fairly good at determining quickly if I was bound to trust the person standing in front of me long term. Sometimes body language would say one thing and their words something different which would leave me feeling like I couldn't trust them. Overall I was often left wondering about interactions with individuals long after they had occurred trying to understand why the conversation broke out the way it did, why certain things happened and sometimes why certain things didn't happen at all. The interesting thing for me is that while my instincts may tell me not to trust someone I often trusted them anyway. Glutton for punishment I suppose.


I have wondered for myself why it is the case that I always seem to start from a default of trusting someone implicitly even when my instincts may tell me otherwise. It seems to be my nature to start a relationship with giving it my all. I want to trust, I want to know I am trusted, I want to exchange ideas and know that ideas can easily be exchanged with me. To put it simply, I pour myself into the relationships that I have because I think it is important to be fully engaged and fully involved. This makes having lots of incidental relationships super annoying, because I am not much for incidental. I want people in my life that are willing to connect that way. I want people in my life that allow me to pour a bucket full of my trust into the relationship, instantly. In the reverse I hope for the same from them, but I can do no more than hope as their trust isn't in my control...

Trust Exchange

I had a conversation with my friend Maurice Gaston at one point about trust and trust as a flowing exchange between people. The idea that trust isn't something all on or all off at all points, that it more flows like a river or comes and goes like a tide. The discussion framed up some thoughts around why some discussions I have feel more relaxed and others feel more strained, as if some conversations require a great deal of concentration to get right and others go right naturally on their own. I think it does boil down to the trust that we have and the mental model we have built up of the person(s) we are talking to.

Chris Argyris, an American business theorist, wrote about these mental models we create for our interactions. He outlined that people over time generate a 'theory' of the person that they are interacting with and how that person will or won't react in situations that they are placed in. When we interact with someone else we try to reconcile the actions that individual takes with the theory we have in our mind for that person, if they match, we reinforce the theory being the 'right' theory for that individual. When the theory and the actions that are presented mismatch we get suddenly lost trying to reconcile and come up with a new theory for them that fits the new data and situation. He called out that this all occurs very quickly - likely at a level we don't realize we are doing it. Stay with me... bringing it back around.

I think the reinforcement or the discontinuity of conversations likely line up with the level of trust and the ease with which the conversations seem to occur. That trust ebb and flow maps directly on-top of Chris' commentary. When my theory of an individual is reinforced by that person's actions, I feel more likely to trust and less like something odd is going to happen. When my theory is constantly being challenged, I feel less likely to trust and the conversation and exchange is harder.

I am sure that there is MORE (much more) to this. This post just represents a part of my consideration of trust.

Trust for me means - Getting Hurt

I am a very trusting person, if you ask me a question I will give you the answer, personal or not. Comes with the ADHD and lack of mental filters for what I should or should not say. I have gotten better over the years about picking my words more carefully so that I don't come across as so blunt or surprising, but I haven't stopped trusting people by default. I want it to be the case that people I am involved with trust me and understand that as a friend of mine, that I would likely move heaven and earth to help them, often times at my own detriment. This has made me try to limit the number of close friends I have - but the reality is that most people I see often enough I would consider my friends and they all get equal treatment that way. Move the stars if it would help. It is painful though because often enough that trust only flows in one direction, and for me its hard to turn off allowing me to get hurt or used more than once. That too has changed over the years, but I am likely still not as careful as my experiences would dictate about how much trust I provide people (including those that have hurt me more than once).

Trust can also hurt when I don't pick my words more carefully and a raw feeling escapes to the surface and out my mouth. It often comes as a surprise to the individual involved.

Why is trust so hard to get back

I think that this is only human, we tend to focus on losses more than gains leaving people less able to see how much was there in the first place. It means that we feel so much more keenly the lost trust, no matter how small, rather than all the trust that has been exchanged over time. Changing that around is difficult because people are not wired that way. Consider your avg. IT help desk and all the vitriol they get tossed their way, no one ever calls them to say "Hey, great job your doing". We unfortunately focus on the negatives. Feels odd to me, because I get burned and go running back in, I wonder what does happen when you let go.
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