The Guts of Trust

I’ve written before about trust in business relationships and selling, and I’ve written about models of trust (see Trust: the Core Concepts.

But what about the guts of trust—of trusting, and of being trusted?

I mean what does it feel like in your gut? What is the gut-level stuff that makes it work—or not work? How do you know it in your gut when you’re being trusted—or trusting?

I don’t mean models, and abstractions, and data. I mean being real.

Here’s the guts of what I’ve learned about trust—from the gut.

1. I can’t tell you what works for you; I can only tell you what works for me.

2. You can tell me what you think I should do; but I won’t do it. Unless I feel like it anyway, or unless I really trust you.

3. I can learn this stuff. It helps to be born with it, but I can learn.

4. Rarely, I learn trust by observing someone who does it well. I once saw a newspaper publisher run a 15-person all-day meeting just by listening, by nodding at someone and saying, “I can tell you’ve got something to add to that, Joe, right?” That time, I got it.

5. Generally, though, I learn trust lessons better through failure than through success. Those are “learning opportunities”—though I rarely see them as such at the moment.

6. Whenever I fail to trust, or to be trusted, it is nearly always my fault, and nearly always due to fear. Fear is the mother lode. I am learning to remember to ask myself, “what am I afraid of?” I hate the answers—they are always the same—shame and guilt. What a waste of time!

7. I don’t trust you until I think you understand me. Why should I expect the reverse to be different?

8. I’d rather you go first. But then things rarely happen. So I guess I have to.

9. You can’t hurt me without my permission. Which I don’t have to give. You’re not annoying—I’m annoyed. And I can stop being annoyed anytime I choose to.

10. You’ll trust me most if I don’t ask, beg, or try to force you to trust me. You’ll trust me the most if I’m of service to you—no strings attached.

11. I’m OK, You’re OK. True enough, but a hard place to get trust started. I’m an Idiot, You’re an Idiot—now there’s a place that offers traction.

12. Trust never comes without risk. Having the courage to be vulnerable, and to take small emotional risks now is what creates trust—and mitigates larger business risk later.

13. If I’m transacting, I’m alone. If I’m relating, transactions come along like ripe fruit.

14. After some point, I realized I could trust my gut more than my brain. Later, I realized that had always been true.

15. I get what I want when I stop wanting it. People trust me when I stop demanding trust.

16. Alone on a desert island, I don’t have to trust or be trusted. And I can always create my own trust-free island. It’s safe, but it’s awfully solitary.