Traveling Trust

I’m in Munich for a one-day stopover en route to Bucharest. I left New York a day earlier than planned to avoid Hurricane Sandy. And I’m realizing yet again – travel has a way of doing that – what an extraordinary level of trust we all take for granted in our modern world.

Yes, the news is full of the opposite. Political campaigns spin the truth (though trust-weary Americans might want to check out the Greek scandal du jour to feel a bit better).

Doctors have a hard time trusting pharmaceutical manufacturers. Patients have a hard time trusting their doctors, and doctors have a hard time trusting their patients. Some patients trust the internet more than their doctors, often with bad results. And let’s not even start with trust in financial services.

A Trusted Trip

With all that going on, it’s easy to forget some basic things. I can freely cross national borders with some mere papers. I can trust the exchange rate when I buy Euros. I can trust the flight controllers that govern the airspace, the airline handling companies that do catering, the bus and taxi systems I encounter.

But most of all, I know I can rely deeply on the basic human decency of people I run into to help with any simple issues – even though we may not speak the same language, and we’ll never see each other again. I can trust that people will give me directions, help me with travel issues, take a moment to help sort out a problem. And I’m almost never, ever wrong in that basic level of trust.

Which motivates me, of course, to try and return the favor whenever I can. And you do the same, I know.

What’s Really Amazing

What’s really amazing is not how often trust goes wrong, but how often it goes right.  Our modern life is unbelievably complex, and yet runs remarkably well.

I don’t want to be Pollyana-ish about this. The fact that trust is so pervasive is precisely the reason we notice and feel trust violations so deeply. We are all right to be deeply offended by untrustworthy behavior; if we lose our capacity to be outraged, we have lost our ability to recover.

Lots of things can be said about lost trust, but I want to highlight one.  Trust is reciprocal. My trusting you causes you to trust me, and vice versa. An absence of trust starts with one party. The presence of trust starts with one party. The question facing all of us is, will you be the one to start?  Or will you always insist on the other party going first?

Do you insist on your vendors insuring you against all losses?  Then don’t be surprised when they don’t trust you.  Do you have all your employees sign cutting-edge non-compete clauses?  Then perhaps you can understand why they might seek ways around it.  Do you give lie detector tests to your employees? Then you might gain insight into why you have a shrinkage problem.

You can do your part as an individual too. To be trusted, be trustworthy.  And if you think others are not trustworthy as you – try trusting them first.

For starters, that’ll make your travel a lot easier.

  • Ed Drozda

    Thanks Charlie; the most important take away for me: “To be trusted, be trustworthy. And if you think others are not trustworthy as you – try trusting them first.” It’s not hard to do and what a difference it can make.

  • http://twitter.com/sandystyer Sandra Styer

    Charlie:

    A perfect post for today, reminding us of what’s important. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charleshgreen2 Charles H. Green

    Thanks Sandy, Ed. I’m watching Sandy (the hurricane) from Eastern Europe, and it’s a good time for people to re-call trusting each other.

  • John Gies

    Thanks Charlie,

    What a good reminder in these days of cynical bashing of the “others” lack to trustworthiness. It is interesting there was a time (I may be dating myself) where we could shake hands and do business. Contracts were a page or two at most.

    With all of the negative reporting of broken trust perhaps we have increased the level of distrust. It’s similar to the fear of crime. Statistically crime has fallen since the 70’s yet we are more afraid thanks to the endless reporting on the same crimes.

    Safe travels

  • Trip Guide

    With all of the negative reporting of broken trust perhaps we have increased the level of distrust. It’s similar to the fear of crime. Statistically crime has fallen since the 70’s yet we are more afraid thanks to the endless reporting on thesame crimes.

    Trip Guide