“He’s the sort of guy you can trust”

When someone close to me recently described a person they met that really impressed them, who was definitely ‘the sort of guy you can trust’, I was interested in what was going on that led her to this startling conclusion after such a short period of time together. I also wondered if she intended spending more time with this guy who she has decided to trust (but I may not)!

With my Blue MVS working well for me, and Trusting being used as a strength regularly, it has over the years slipped down my Portrait of Personal Strengths. This is as an unfortunate consequence of trust being placed in the wrong people and or projects. Reflecting on some of these events I can identify the times when it was a really dumb decision and should have known better but on others (and one notable and very costly event) I am not sure that I could have done anything about it.

This begs the question, when do you really know you can trust someone?

If hindsight proves when it goes wrong then surely having your expectations met by an individual consistently will add to the sense of trust in that relationship? Logically, trust can only be attained after a period of time. A delegate of mine years ago had a favourite saying that “trust is like a crystal bowl – it takes ages to make and seconds to shatter”. This seems to recognise the element of time required – so how and why do some people place instant trust in others without the luxury of time to prove themselves?

We know that our Motivational Value Systems act as a filter on all aspects of our lives but does this always work in our favour?

I recall an outdoor event where the group were asked to go abseiling. The thought of lowering yourself backwards off a near vertical cliff does fill most novices with a sense of fear. The exercise was set up with the youngest instructor we could find, so he was the only one between the delegates and a hard landing. Each delegate duly got roped up, received their last-minute instructions and completed the task.

Although the point of the exercise was not to look at trust it did become a valuable by-product. Feedback from the group was mixed; only one group said that they trusted the young instructor (another discussion should be around why they continued with the exercise anyway…). The young man was very confident – some said cocky, others uncaring, others dismissive – but he knew his stuff after climbing for many years.

There was only one MVS group that responded well to his matter of fact, jokey encouragement to get down as quick as possible and jokes about the breaking strain of the ropes being slightly less than the weight of each delegate. Red. When the others were asked what would have made a difference the answers were interesting but not surprising.

The members with a predominantly Blue MVS wanted the reassurance that they were being looked after and needed signals that the instructor was concerned about their welfare above all else. They also wanted to be spoken to in a calm manner. The members with a predominantly Green MVS wanted more technical information about the equipment safety standards, service schedules and one person asked about the instructor’s qualifications.

Does this suggest that the trust, or lack of in these cases, revolved around whether or not the other person approached the situation the same way as they would? Surely it can’t be as simple as ‘if you are like me then I will trust you’?

I mentioned earlier that certain events have lowered my trust in others but there is something else working at a less conscious level. Something that has had a positive effect on you. Our brains do like to get to a conclusion quickly (those of you who have attended a Level 2 (Certification) workshop with me will have seen how we can make total sense out of nonsense quite easily in our opening exercise). If we have built up a store of characteristics that are common in people that we have trusted in the past, we are more likely to make an instant judgement that this new person is worthy of our trust. This can be the depth or tone in a voice, physical stature, the expression in someone’s face, the eyes or a smile. Bob Monkhouse was once asked during an interview why he was not popular and well liked as a comedian. He replied by saying that “I was cursed with an insincere smile”.

The power of familiarity should not be underestimated. How many of us have driven to a familiar destination and not consciously thought about how we got there? Our many levels of awareness were working for us. However if we have had the misfortune of a crash at some point we may start to feel a sense of Cautious-ness as we approach the same piece of road. In fact the same sense of caution may reappear if we are on a similar section of road (a sort of negative déjà vu).

In order to understand that not everyone is untrustworthy it is essential to understand that there are certain signposts, even milestones, that will be passed that look exactly the same as previous routes. But not all familiar roads lead to the same destination. Understanding at what point better decisions could have been made is the real skill – too many people abandon relationships and projects simply because they recognise the route they are travelling. Assuming it will lead to the same negative outcome they decide to bail out early before it is too late, rather than predicting when to take a different and more effective course of action further down the line.

What is it we are all looking for? What is it that we recognise as likeable and believable? Is it a combination of our own values being mirrored and our history? Is it more covert? Once in the past, with my Blue MVS radar working well, I was totally susceptible to the story and evidence (manufactured of course) that a person was not only vulnerable and in need of help, but also being persecuted. In this case I was making up my own mind based on my MVS-filtered perception of the situation. Even when I was advised of how I was being deceived I refused to believe it until it was too late. Again, history seems to play a part here – at that moment in time I had heard of these situations but had never been close or part of one. So my ‘reality’ was still too strong to allow another viewpoint to interrupt my beliefs.

Dr. Duane C. Tway Jr. in his 1993 dissertation A Construct of Trust wrote that trust is “the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something”. He calls trust a construct because it is ‘constructed’ of these three components:

  1. The capacity for trusting
  2. The perception of competence
  3. The perception of intentions.

I like this construct but am still asking questions:

  1. How does my MVS influence my ‘capacity for trust’?
  2. How does my MVS influence my ‘perception of competence’?
  3. How does my MVS influence my ‘perception of intent’?

Using the three elements described above I would like to hear your stories of what elements need to be present for you to place your trust in in others and how your own MVS works both for and against you.

Can I trust you will join the discussion?…

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