In Trust I Trust

May 14, 2010

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

This was for a long time something that I held for true. I thought that the resulting breach in trust coming from a lie or from a disloyal action would be, if not permanent, at least the responsibility of the breaching party to repair. I considered trust something that a party would have to earn and once the trust had been broken it would be very hard to earn back.

I don’t hold this for evident anymore. I’m quite convinced today that a trusting relationship is first and foremost the responsibility of the partner issuing the trust.

In order to get a relationship to work, we have to begin with trust. We can not start a realtionship off with distrust and expect it to transform into something else. Suspicion and distrust will surely build a behaviour but most likely not a favourable one. Distrust will never be a fertile ground for building a healthy partnership. If the trust has once been broken, we have the choice of breaking the partnership or to resume it if we believe that the issue has been dissolved. If we decide to resume the relationship then we’ll have to let go of our suspicions or we might as well have finished it off immediately.

I’ve heard people say that employees have to earn the trust neccessary for managers to allow for self organization and self management. How can people act in a way that would earn them this trust if they are constantly supervised and micro managed?

How can a child learn to act responsibly if we don’t trust her to make the responsible decisions?

I also believe that a trusting relationship is an investment made by both parties. To throw away the trust but still uphold the relationship seems to me a big waste. Either we decide to give the partner another chance in order to salvage the investment or we cut our losses and start investing somewhere else.

Consumers have trusted Toyota for decades and now have the choice of either putting their faith in the good intentions of the company or to break the relationship. Toyota made mistakes on several levels and I would totally understand anyone saying that they never wanted to buy another Toyota. But, the company contains a large investment in know-how that we all have benefitted from in one way or another and to me it seems to be a waste to throw this away. I would thus likewise understand anyone expecting Toyota to resume their quality work that they have been known for. What we cannot do is to suspiciously sit by and wait to see where the relationship is heading because then it will certainly head south (or at least Toyota will).

I’ve been using the words “partnership” and “relationship” interchangeably above, because I think that this applies in all kind of relationships/partnerships where trust is involved. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the trust between a manager and employees, trust between lovers or friends, or if we’re considering the trust between a supplier and a customer. Trust can never be built unless we begin by offering it. So Mr Nietzsche, if that’s how you truly felt, I hope that you ended the relationship after writing those words.

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3 Responses to “In Trust I Trust”


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Morgan Ahlström. Morgan Ahlström said: Trust begins with … trust, trust me on this one. New post on where trust begins. http://bit.ly/9I8UOV #Trust […]

  2. tobiasmayer Says:

    > We can not start a realtionship off with distrust and expect it to transform into something else.

    A simple truth, yet so often missed completely. Thanks for this post, and for mentioning it on Lyssa’s blog. I am realising, with some recent blog and twitter interaction, that this is an important meme to propagate. Apparently it is far from self-evident 😦

    • morgsterious Says:

      Thanks for stopping by Tobias. It’s good to see that this is a view shared by people like you and Lyssa, who’s opinions I’ve often appreciated in the past.
      /Morgan


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