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Three Things You Need to Know About Trust: Part 2

There are really only three things you need to know about trust. You can pretty much deduce the rest. The three parts are:

  1. Trust is a Two-player Game
  2. Trust Requires Risk
  3. Trust is Reciprocal

Part 2: Trust Requires Risk.

First, there is no trust without risk. Second, only one player takes the risk; this sets up a particular dynamic.

No Trust Without Risk

Ronald Reagan was blowing smoke when he famously said, “Trust, but verify.”  The truth is, if you have to verify, it’s not trust. If it’s trust, then it’s not about verification. (Tellingly, Lenin was fond of the same phrase).

At one extreme, trust is bordered by blind faith, which is unbounded by data or reason. At the other, we have statistics, where risk is strictly a matter of probabilities and assumptions, governed by the rules of mathematics.

Trust lies curiously in between faith and probability – and a little off the straight and narrow of the continuum as well.  A psychological relationship, it involves one party willingly putting itself in harm’s way of the other, with a significant but not perfectly quantifiable chance that the other may abuse the situation. No wonder we speak of it often with metaphors.

People say trust mitigates risk. That’s true, but it’s also true that risk creates trust. Without risk-taking, there can be no trust. We forget this when we try to create trust by eliminating risk.

Why is this important? If you remove temptation or risk, you create an artificial dependence outside of the critical trust relationship. For example, if you render financial institutions completely non-risky by over-doing tick-box compliance, you will also choke off trust. Trust eats risk for breakfast, and becomes stronger for so doing.

As with many things trust-related, this is paradoxical. Trust reduces risk, but it also thrives on risk. Robotic safety and predictability are components of trust, but small ones. A completely mechanical world may be risk-free, but it’s also trust-free.

One Player Takes the Risk

In its pure form, one party trusts, while the other is trusted. In my classes, it’s a running joke I play: would you rather get better at trusting? Or at being trusted? So far, every class has opted to get better at being trusted. Doh! That’s the non-risky choice.

It’s human nature to wish others to take the risk. Sometimes, we’re lucky. The other person asks us out first; the customer shows their hand first, reducing our fears about price; the interviewer shares something personal about themselves, setting us at ease.

If you’re willing to run your business dependent on the kindness of strangers, that’s fine. But if you prefer to make your own luck – or trust – you’re going to have to learn to take risks. As Wayne Gretzky said, you’ll never miss a shot you don’t take; but of course, you’ll never score a goal either.

One of the biggest barriers to trusting is the cult of trustworthiness. The professions in particular like to cloak themselves in the idea of a Trusted Advisor that is strictly about trustworthiness – but not about trusting.  Such ideas include the high-minded virtues of integrity, tell-it-like-it-is courage, and a professional remove. But they frequently don’t encompass vulnerability and emotional risk-taking.  They should.

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In the third part, I’ll talk about the reciprocity of trust – how the role of trustor and trustee gets traded back and forth, and what that means for the development of trust.

Three Things You Need to Know About Trust: 1 of 3

There really are only three things you need to know about trust. You can pretty much deduce the rest.

I’m going to write about each of them in a separate blogpost, but here’s the one-liner version of each:

  1. Trust is a Two-player Game
  2. Trust Requires Risk
  3. Trust is Reciprocal

If you understand those three points, you can figure out things like trust recovery, rapid trust creation, and trust-enhancing cultures.

Trust is a Two-Player Game

For trust to exist, one party must do the trusting, and the other party must be trusted. That sounds dirt-simple, until you pick up the paper and realize how much talk about trust simply doesn’t mention it.

How many articles and surveys have you read that talk about “trust” as if it were some simple, unitary phenomenon?  Answer: most.

Those articles that say “trust is down,” “trust in banks has declined,” “people I know are more trusted–” all suffer one great defect: they don’t tell you why the trust is up or down.

It’s simple, if you ask the question correctly. If surveys show that trust in banking is down, is that because banks have become less trustworthy? Or because people have become less inclined to trust? One is a problem of ethics and trustworthiness; the other is a problem of risk-taking, education and fear.

You can’t design policies or laws or actions if you don’t know which problem you’re trying to solve.

If you can’t directly address trusting and trustworthiness, then measures of “trust” alone can’t be trusted – they could be influenced by exogenous factors like GDP growth.  And they are.

Trusting and Being Trusted

Trusting is about intelligent risk-taking.  Being trusted is about trustworthiness.

When someone says trust is really an issue of character or integrity, they’re talking about being trusted, not about trusting.

And when someone says, “trust but verify,” they’re talking about trusting, not about being trusted. (Though notice: if you have to verify – it’s not really trusting).

When you talk about trust in your organization, or with your clients or customers, you would probably prefer that others get better at trusting – to save you the trouble of getting more trustworthy!

We don’t have a lot of control over others’ propensity to trust, though we can certainly influence it.  But we have a lot of control over being trusted. And by far the best way to be trusted is to simply be trustworthy. One way to think about that is through the Trust Equation.

Trust is a Relationship

Trust is a relationship? Well, that’s what being a “2-player game” means. Before you think this is another “Doh” moment, note what it implies. It means the absence of trust is the absence of a relationship. It means when we think about business outside the framework of relationship, we are not thinking about trust.

What do market share, competitive advantage, markets, cost reduction, and value chains have to do with relationships? Not much. And therefore they have little to do with trust.

One driver of the level of trust is, simply, how we view business. Our view of business for the last several decades has been about competition, not about collaboration; about opposition, not about relationship.

A big reason those articles show that “trust is down” is because we have stopped thinking about relationships, and focused instead on competitive marketplaces.

Wanna know why trust is down? Start with the absence of relationships.

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Next post: Trust Requires Risk

Reputation Recovery

When you are more virtuous than your reputation would suggest, you have a communications problem.

When your reputation for virtue exceeds the facts on the ground, you have a ticking business problem.

When Image and Reality Part Ways

When you have a communications problem, the communications team should hire a PR firm. Most firms do this.

But in the second case – where the reputation is better than the truth – most firms do not do what they should. They don’t even thank their lucky stars for having a better reputation than they deserve.

Instead, they begin to believe the hype.

Then one day, It Happens. The subsidiary defaults. The pipeline springs a leak. Animal byproducts show up in the food. Someone comes forward to testify.

Let’s be clear. These things just kind of seem to happen more often to the non-virtuous than to the virtuous firm. If the event truly is an anomaly, it doesn’t last on the front page. Acts of god don’t make good news for long.

But what about the non-virtuous firm?

When Disclosures Accelerate

When it turns out the smoke really did indicate fire, the non-virtuous firm all too often behaves predictably.  Having believed their undeserved hype about being virtuous, they then do what the virtuous firms did – they hire a PR firm.

Which is all too often the wrong thing to do – and hardly ever the main thing to do.

In an interesting display of PR sensitivity,  BP chose to hire Dick Cheney’s former campaign press secretary as head of PR, and a Wall Street PR firm as outside advisors.

Of course, there is a role for communications experts even in a crisis. With multiple constitutencies and tons of experience at keeping things secret, perhaps it made sense for Penn State to hire two outside PR firms.

But most non-virtuous firms aren’t looking for technical expertise; they’re looking to follow the lead of Muammar Gadaffi in seeking spin.

PR: a Delicate Balance

It cannot be an easy thing to tell clients seeking spin that the solution is to become virtuous. Clients want virtue now, and backdated if possible, thank you very much.

In such a milieu, the temptation for ambulance chasing is high. How can you keep on teaching virtue when the clients are paying you to shut up and stop the pain?

Yet that is what must be done. Arthur Page, the poster child for “good” public relations, had it right. He had a list of seven principles, the first of which was “tell the truth.” What a concept.

He also said that public relations is 90% doing and 10% talking about it. In other words, if you are virtuous, you’re not going to have much of a problem explaining crises.

Recovering Virtue

The fallen firm wants to know what they can do now to recover. After all, they always sought fast fixes in the past, and they worked. But there simply is no fast route to virtue recovery if you’re coming from a history of un-virtuous behavior.

At a personal level, it’s conceivable that someone could have an instant conversion and become virtuous, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen it – most conversions I have seen have come through pain and hard work.

And at a corporate level? Fuggedabout it. The fastest route to serious change is to change all the top leadership, and even then you’ve got habits, policies and cultures to change. Minimum 6-12 months, and I can’t off-hand think of an example where change has happened that fast.

Non-virtuous leaders who’ve been caught with their pants down don’t want to hear it, but the best way to handle crises is to prevent them happening in the first place. The best way to be trusted is to be trustworthy.

Spin is not the solution; spin is the problem.

You may not be able to change by tomorrow, but you can always start the journey today.

 

 

 

 

Lake Wobegon Syndrome: Believing We’re All Above Average

Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon is that Midwestern enclave where:

…the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

Lately, there are curious signs of incipient Wobegonism – at least the part about the kids. On average, we’re all looking just a little too above-average.

Unconditional Positive Self-Regard

I once watched Marshall Goldsmith ask a room of conference participants to lower their heads, then raise their hands if they thought they were in the top 50% of performers in the room. Then, to keep their hands up if they were in the top 25%; then, the top 10%.

When he finally asked people to raise their heads, all could plainly see that over half the room had indicated they were in the top 10%.

The concept of unconditional positive regard is well-known among therapists. There’s something to be said about positive self-regard as well, in the simple sense that if you can’t accept yourself you’re going to have trouble dealing with other people.

But what happens if your sense of self-regard begins to diverge from reality? What happens if you begin to believe you’re All That – and honestly, you’re not?

Reality Bites

Generation Y, famously raised on a sense of entitlement, is having a tough time confronting today’s horrific economic environment. 60% think they have the right to work remotely, with flexible schedules, despite the economy.

Worse, Gen Y’s much-vaunted computer skills may have been overstated; social media savvy doesn’t translate well to spreadsheets, or even to navigating hierarchical menu structures.

Perhaps recognizing an inflection point, the Wellesley High School graduating class recently made news for being told in a commencement speech that “You are not special…you are not exceptional.”

But it’s not just about Gen Y – not by a long shot. Here at Trusted Advisor Associates, we’ve noticed a distinct case of “grade inflation.” Scores on our Trust Quotient (TQ) self-assessment, have been creeping up over the past year or two. There are several possible explanations, including:

  1. people are becoming more trustworthy,
  2. people think they are becoming more trustworthy.

I have a sneaking suspicion it’s the latter.  Stay tuned.

Overstating our importance is a natural consequence of ignorance. Believing the world is flat was understandable in a world without airplanes or telescopes. But when a modern nation like the US has 46% of its population who believe in creationism, some cognitive dysfunction is afoot.

Politicians bear some blame.  The Speaker of the House declares that the US has “the best healthcare system in the world,” which defies logic unless you exclude the other developed economies.

Many pols publicly support the fiction that balancing the national budget is fundamentally the same as balancing a household budget. Any undergrad econ major can tell you the rules of national economies and households are precisely the opposite. It’s hard to tell if this statement lie is cynical, or just grossly ignorant, much less which is worse.

In our social haste to abandon low self-esteem, we have overplayed the power of a positive attitude. We once heard phrases like “you make your own luck,” “smile before you dial,” and, “the glass is half full.” Corporate training once taught that you could act your way into right thinking.

Somehow, those morphed into, “Hold fast to your dream and it will come true,” saying affirmations until they “manifest,” and best sellers like The Secret. We’ve gone way past “thinking your way into right action,” all the way to “envision reality until reality changes to fit our thinking!”

One of the biggest instances of hubris in our time has to be finance. Efficient market theory, the agency theory that led to private equity, and the various financial engineering “innovations” we have seen in recent decades – all are testimony to a belief that we have found revealed (financial) truth. Yet time and again, it seems we have not.

Two Flavors of Humility

There are two kinds of humility. One consists “not in thinking less of ourselves, but in thinking of ourselves less.” The other amounts to, well, thinking less of ourselves – realizing that we’re not, in fact, All That.

We need a little of both.

Thinking of ourselves less drives relationship thinking; it civilizes us, focuses us on other people. It is the root of social behavior, charity, and most of the higher virtues.

Thinking of ourselves less drives other-focus, collaboration, and connection. It enables client focus, allows us to see value adding potential, and creates the basis for reciprocity and customer loyalty.

Thinking less of ourselves is neither sin nor virtue except insofar as our starting point is delusional. Thinking we know it all is a cyclical affectation, a very human failing we are nonetheless good at forgetting.

Until once again things blow up, revert to the mean, and we get our comeuppance, or our karmic smackdown, or our luck runs out.  What we call it depends on how much we still believe we understand what just happened.

Here’s what we need a whole lot more of:

“I really am not sure; what do you think?”

Stupid Crazy Trust

Sometimes I get annoyed. Usually, that means I’m thinking like an idiot. Sometimes, however, it produces useful ideas.

Lately I’m annoyed by the constant repetition of a myth about trust. You know this one: “Trust takes a long time to create, but only a moment to destroy.” There’s no need to name names here, but you can see examples of it here and here and here and here.

This time, my annoyance produced some good: I can now explain why that myth isn’t merely annoying, but positively harmful as well. Here goes.

The Truth.

Let’s start with the truth. Most human relationships, like most emotions, take roughly as long to get over as they took to develop. Marriages or friendships don’t end overnight. There may be a flash point, a straw that breaks the camel’s back. But we cut slack for people we trust. We don’t dump them abruptly.

If trust were lost in a minute, battered women wouldn’t stay with the men who beat them; things are a little more complicated than that.

If trust died quickly, the SEC would have investigated Bernie Madoff when Harry Markopolos first lodged charges against him. If trust died quickly, the steady drip drip drip of evidence at Penn State, Enron, Toyota, and Johnson & Johnson would have ended at the first drip.

Most examples of “trust lost quickly” turn out to be either just the last drip in a long series of drips or a delusion about trust’s existence in the first place. You don’t “violate the trust” of a subscriber to your email list by sending them a worthless referral. The relationship you have with a name on your email list may be many things, but “trust-based” is probably a stretch.

Trust formed quickly can be lost quickly. Trust formed at a shallow level can be lost at the same level; trust formed deeply, or over time, takes deeper violations, or a longer time, to be lost. The pattern looks more like a standard bell curve than a cliff.

But, you might say, so what? Why are you annoyed? Why is that harmful? 

The Harm

If you believe that trust can be lost in a moment, then you likely believe you must be cautious and careful about protecting it. You are likely to think about trust as a precious resource to be guarded against being tarnished. You are inclined to institute rules and procedures to protect it and to give cautionary lectures about the risk of losing trust.

Yet these are precisely the kinds of behavior that result in trust lost.

I don’t trust the man who talks with me while pointing a gun at me‬—partly because he looks threatening to me, but also because he clearly does not trust me.

Trust, at a personal level, is like love and hate: you tend to get back what you put out. You empower what you fear. Those afraid of getting burned are the most likely to get burned.

This totally works at a corporate level too. I remember vividly the convenience store chain that gave monthly lie detector tests to store managers to prevent theft—and then wondered why the theft kept on happening.

Trust is a Muscle

Thinking of trust as something you can lose in a minute makes you cautious and unlikely to take risks. But the absence of risk is what starves trust. There simply is no trust without risk—that’s why they call it trust.

If your people aren’t empowered, if they’re always afraid of being second-guessed, then they will always operate from fear and never take a risk—and as a result, will never be trusted.

Trust is a muscle—it atrophies without use. And the repetition of the mantra “trust can be lost in a moment” just tells people not to use it.

Turns out the stupidest, craziest trust is the trust you never engaged in because you were too afraid of losing it. The smartest trust is the trust you get by taking a risk.

While We’re in Book Promotion Mode…

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re now in heavy book promotion mode. The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook has recently published and we want the world to know about it.

What We’ll Be Talking About

We’ll be posting about media mentions. We’ll be posting about our posts that appear as guest blogs at other sites. We’ll be posting interviews with other authors and bloggers, live and recorded. And we’ll provide links to archived interviews, audio and text.

We hope you’ll share our enthusiasm. We’re excited, of course, and want to get it into as many hands as possible. We believe in our message and we believe that this book is a great tool that will help people gain and master trust.

Trust is more important than ever right now and we want to help people be net drivers for increased in trust in the business world and beyond.

Why We’re Saying This

We want to provide value in our blog posts, and know that event promotion per se isn’t necessarily of interest to you. We hope to keep it interesting by focusing on others; meantime, you can help promote the trust theme.

Because here’s the bottom line. We suffer these days not from too much trust, but from too little – in our politics, our institutions, our businesses, and our lives. We need to do two things better:

  • Be more trustworthy
  • Be more willing to trust others.

The better we get at these two tasks, the easier and better things get done. And getting things done is good for the economy.

And getting better at trusting and being trusted is good for the soul and for the body politic.

Take My Gift Card–Please: A Trust Moment in the Restaurant Business

Establishing Trust in the Restaurant BusinessI seldom get to deal in up-beat stories. At the heart of my practice in financial litigation and disputes lie the predations of the white-collar malefactors, abusing their roles of public and private trust in ways of questionable legality and dubious ethics and morals.

So I was recently pleased to be on the receiving end of a restaurant employee’s demonstration that trust in “doing the right thing” works to everyone’s advantage. Here’s the story:

My father-in-law seriously loves Joe’s Stone Crab in downtown Chicago. But he is deprived, largely confined out in the far suburbs. So to elicit favor in the family, I volunteered to arrange an order that I would deliver in person.

When I passed by Joe’s for the pick-up, I met in person my order-taking telephone contact – the personable and accommodating Emily. Emily was swamped on a busy Saturday, doubling as coatroom attendant and take-out order manager. But she was the picture of helpfulness; what more can you ask than, “It’s ready – right up from the kitchen.”

I proffered a gift card for $100 – change for the $97 order neither expected nor offered. Then came her sheepish smile:

“I’m sorry, sir, but there’s a problem. Our gift cards say they’re only good Sunday through Friday.”

My countenance has almost no ability to conceal my feelings – not least of the reasons I never think of playing poker. Fortunately, something in the spirit of the holiday season impelled me to disappointment, rather than frustration or irritable hostility.

“Emily, that surely can’t be the right answer. It’s just a take-out – it’s not as if there’s a group taking up a table.”

(I chose not to press the point, but a pre-paid gift card differs from a freebie or a discount coupon, for which there would be some arguable justification for limits to off-peak use. Here the restaurant had enjoyed the full advance use of the cash value for months.)

“I’ll see what I can do,” and off she went. Meanwhile I contemplated a Plan B – I could simply walk out in a snit.

But then the already-packaged order would simply go to waste, and I would let down my in-laws. Lose-lose-lose.

She was back in less than a minute. “It’s fine – we’ll take the card. No problem.”

Far better than “no problem.” Using her tact and flexibility, Emily bolstered her employer’s revenue, encouraged a sure-to-repeat customer, and delivered to me both a burst of good will with my relatives and a lovely example of the benefits of empowered workers.

Thanks to you, Emily, and to whoever trained and trusted you to do a good job.

Beyond 51 percent: Gaining Buy-In

In the airport recently, coming home from New Mexico, I just picked up John Kotter  and Lorne A. Whitehead’s new little book, Buy*in: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down.  The authors outline four ways in which attackers – consciously or not – try to kill new ideas:

–        Fear-mongering (hmm, where have we seen this before?)

–        Death by Delay

–        Sowing Confusion

–        Ridicule or Character Assassination

Their strategy for disarming these objectors is, at its heart, simple and counter-intuitive: instead of trying to work around naysayers, lining up votes in the cloakroom, ignoring vocal critics or trying to shout them down, Kotter and Whitehead suggest throwing open the doors and inviting the lions in. 

The key is then LISTENING WITH RESPECT. Kotter and Whitehead point out that trying to overwhelm the idea-attackers with more data and rebut them with more logical arguments won’t succeed. The critics need to be heard.

This research comports exactly with our teachings around building trust and gaining influence: listening as a sign of respect, letting others be heard before offering advice, the principle of reciprocity. Without first listening, we cannot be heard. And without being heard, our good advice or new ideas will never be accepted.

It really is that simple: to be heard, you have to listen first. 

The authors go on to give specific strategies for handling 24 objections, acknowledging the critic and at the same time avoiding getting drawn into inappropriate merits arguments. Take for example their Attack #18:

ATTACK: Good idea, but it’s the wrong time. We need to wait until this other thing is finished (or this other thing is started, or the situation changes in some specific way.)

RESPONSE: The best time is almost always when you have people excited and committed to make something happen. And that’s now.

****

As I read through Buy*in and thought about it in the context of Trusted Advisor Associates’ work, I was also struck by a conversation I had had the day before with my sister, whom I had been visiting in her home near Taos. I mentioned that people of all sorts seemed willing to tell her anything. 

She just smiled and said: “It’s because I’m not afraid to hear it.” A lesson I’m bringing home with me.

Is Trust Trending?

Here are six events I’ve noticed recently. I think there’s a connection, and perhaps even a trend in them. Help me sort out what that connection and trend might be, will you?

1. In mid-October, 100 of the world’s leading authorities on corporate disclosure gathered at Harvard Business School to attend an event called “A Workshop on Integrated Reporting: Frameworks and Action Plan” sponsored by the school’s Business and Environment Initiative. (Very briefly: Integrated reporting means combining traditional financial reporting with non-financial, i.e. Environmental, Social and Governance, issues). You can download a free ebook from the event with papers by about half the participants—it’s excellent.

2. The new Dean of Harvard Business School—who among other things had been a counselor to the MBA Oath program the year before—opened the conference, saying: "It’s a matter of great concern to me that society has lost so much trust in business.  It’s something that I think each and every one of us needs to pay great and serious attention to.  We live in a time in which business leaders are often trusted even less than politicians."

3. The New Yorker magazine printed an article titled, “What Good is Wall Street? Much of What Investment Bankers Do is Socially Useless,” whose tone is considerably less strident than its title might suggest.

4. October saw the release of the documentary “Inside Job,” a serious (and seriously critical) look at the recent financial crisis by Charles Ferguson, an MIT PhD in political science.

5. The MBA Oath, something that many considered faddish a year ago, seems to be gaining steam

6. Robert Ketchum, head of FINRA, seems to be advocating for a fiduciary standard of some sort for the brokerage business. 

One robin doth not a Spring make; and maybe I’m generally an optimist. But I think there’s something positive going on here.

When I see integrated reporting discussed by 100 people—not just non-financial reporting, but integrated reporting—I think that’s significant.

When I see global business institutions like the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration making serious trust-talk at the Dean’s level (and Dean Nitin Nohria was appointed in part, I’m sure, because he talks that way), I think that’s significant.

I realize the New Yorker is not Forbes magazine, but when they decide that it’s time to write a serious business article, and to do so with their high standards of journalism, I think that’s significant. 

When the financial legislation was passed earlier this year, the fiduciary issue was left out of the mandated laws, and left to the discretion of the SEC. Given the recent election results, I wouldn’t have predicted FINRA’s reaction. That feels significant.

What I think is significant about all this is not that an argument is being won or lost. This strikes me as refreshingly not about good and evil. It’s about a new willingness to take seriously some complex issues of trust. How do we integrate stakeholders? What does trust mean for governance? Can we have intelligent regulations that increase trust? 

Most of all, I sense a willingness to bring trust to the business table as a core and valid agenda item—a willingness that I don’t think was there as recently as just 12 months ago. 

Is something going on? Or am I on drugs? What do you think?

Giving and Getting Respect

Respect is a theme I run across in my work with trust. Many people say they want to be trusted. Yet they feel disrespected by those from whom they seek trust.   In such cases, “they don’t trust me” quickly breaks down into “they behave disrespectfully toward me.”   A desire morphs into a resentment. 

The unconscious implication is that “if they don’t trust me, it’s their fault, because they don’t respect me in the first place. And if they don’t respect me, then I won’t respect them either. Their lack of trust in me is their fault, not mine.”

There’s a lot going on in that little circle of mis-logic. How is it that we respect others, and that they respect us? What does disrespect have to do with trust?

Note the grammatical parallels between trust and respect. Both are used as verb, as adjective, and as adjectival phrase:

I trust you; I am trustworthy; I am trusted by you

I respect you; I am respectable; I am respected by you

Are there causal links here? And if so, what are they?

There’s an old truism: the fastest way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him. This is one truism that has been proven true to me.

Of course, there is a loose correlation between being trustworthy and being trusted, just as there is between being respectable and being respected.

But – and this is critical – there is no guarantee with either one. Not only can you not always get someone to trust or respect you, but the harder you try – the less likely you are to succeed. This is why trust-based selling is so much more powerful than linear, logic-based selling.

Giving Respect and Trusting

Both trust and respect must be freely given. If demanded or coerced, the results are the opposite–distrust and disrespect.   This is why I tell my clients never to call themselves trusted advisors—let your clients make that determination for themselves, and make it public, or not, on their own. Being called a trusted advisor is great marketing, but only if never suborned.

The ability to trust and to respect is a sign of an evolved ability to relate to others. That doesn’t make blind trust or respect a virtue: there is nothing noble about trusting a thief, or respecting a scoundrel. That’s just stupid.

But equally stupid, and more common, is a refusal to trust or to respect others. That refusal is driven by fear and, by way of paranoia, gums up the works of human interactions and commerce.

Being Respected and Being Trusted

Just as trusting others helps but doesn’t guarantee being trusted by them, so does respecting others not guarantee being respected by them. And that’s where we end up feeling “it’s not fair.”

Let’s be clear. When it comes to trust and respect, fairness is not an issue. If your spouse buys you a gift for the holidays, do you think of it as ‘fair’ or not? (Hint: the right answer is ‘no, of course I don’t, Charlie, what do you take me for!’)

Give Respect to Get It? Or Give Respect and Detach?

Too often we try to put conditions on what must be freely given. You can’t reduce trust to a controlled conditional transaction: “If you give me this, I’ll trust you to do that, but you’d better be fair.” There is no trust without risk; if you try to control the outcome, you’ll destroy the trust. 

I’m coming to think respect is the same. To respect someone is good; partly because it can make the other person feel respected–but mainly because it shows you’re the kind of person who has an evolved ability to relate to others.

The distinction becomes important when we look for others to respect us. If we crave respect from others, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. But worst, we are trying to force (via guilt trip) others to do what we want them to