Trust is one of the cornerstones of human interactions. In our first interaction with someone, all things being equal, we’re inclined to trust because otherwise nothing would move forward. We may move cautiously, though, taking small steps at first. It takes a bit longer to develop trustworthiness.
I had an employee once who wasn’t carrying his weight. Each time we sat down to address the situation, he would acknowledge his shortcomings and promise to do better. He’d even come up with a specific plan and he would often carry it out … for a few days.
Unfortunately, his patterns of behavior were too deeply ingrained and soon he was spending more time talking to girlfriends on the phone than focused on the commitments he had made to me a week or two before. Again we’d talk. Again he’d say, “Trust me!” I finally realized that he felt entitled to my trust. For him, my withholding of trust was unfair or at least unkind and ungenerous. Finally, I said to him, “Trust requires a pattern of behavior.” When there is a pattern of behavior, that’s what I trust or expect to happen. We learn from patterns — patterns of letters in words, patterns of movements in a basketball free-throw or a golf swing, patterns of landmarks as we drive to work. Patterns of behavior in others are no different.
Someone recently said to me, “Expectations are premeditated disappointments.” When we expect or trust where we shouldn’t, disappointments are inevitable. Somewhere in our minds, I think we keep track of things we expect from people, especially when they make us promises. And we’d better remember our promises, because the people we make them to surely will. We learn what happens. We earn trust with a pattern of behavior. Think about that the next time you say or hear the words, “Trust me.”
Please share with me your thoughts on building trust.