Daily Archives: July 16, 2008

Building a trust framework

The Pygmalion principle: “While we do well not to trust too little and not to trust too much, it seems better to trust a little too much than a little too little.” From King Arthur’s Round Table by David Perkins

How do we ever get to a point where we trust anything? Don’t we start off with the premise that things in this world deserve some amount of trust? We trust others as we walk by them not to invade our so called space. We trust people to drive on the right side of the road. We trust systems, governments, buildings, and others even if we have no reason to do so.

We begin to lose trust when something in a system violates the principles we believe the system was based on. Trust can be broken/reduced because of the “fundamental attribution error”, unreasonable expectations, unexpected expectations, overgeneralizations or selective processing of information.

The fundamental attribution error comes from the idea that others have character flaws while our own view of the world is based on the situation.

Unreasonable expectations about others can lead to a feeling that others are less trustworthy. Let’s say that we hold that someone else will do something and that thing doesn’t happen. Our disappointment with our expectation will erode the trust even though there is no real basis for it.

Unexpected expectations occur when we think don’t establish real commitments in dealing with other people. We think they might do something with urgency (the urgency exists in our mind) and they don’t. Unclear expectations can lead to trust erosion.

Overgeneralizing trust happens when we trust people in some areas and not in others.

Finally, the selective processing of information is when there is a view that as an individual you can do no wrong or you can do no right. If an instance proves that you are trustworthy you may be trusted in all situations or if one instance proves that you are less trustworthy in the eyes of some you will always be untrustworthy.

Trust is an important element in a relationship. Both sides should work to establish honest expectations at the beginning of the relationship building process. Being authentic and genuine admitting flaws as well as strengths will help establish a framework of honesty on which trust can be built.

What areas of trust are problematic for you? Why?