Vote for the One You Trust?

You could make a case that the best candidate to vote for is the one you trust. Personally, I think it’s a better rationale than:

The one you’d want to have a beer with
The one with the most experience
The one with the most moral clarity.

Of course, trust is a personal thing. Then again, so is voting.

So I’ve given you a little checklist below to assess your level of trust in each candidate in that little election they’re having tomorrow in the US. It is based on the trust equation, originally printed in The Trusted Advisor in 2000. It suggests trust is a combination of Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and low Self-Orientation.

(Not a US citizen? No problem. Here in the state of TrustMatters we accept your comments regardless of your citizenship!).

Tell us whether what follows is useful.

I trust ___ because is he the most credible, meaning:

• He is honest, means what he says
• He’s got the most relevant expertise
• He’s got the best credentials for the job
• He’s really good at what the job takes
• He speaks accurately—tells the truth
• He speaks completely—tells the whole truth
• Other relevant people recommend him.

I trust ___ because is he the most reliable, meaning:

• When he says he’ll do something, he does it
• I have more experience with this person than I do with the other
• He seems more consistent and predictable to me; no bad surprises
• He handles the details well; things work nicely around him, so that you can depend on him to get things done

I trust ___ because is he the most intimate, meaning:

• He’s the most likely to appreciate my personal experiences
• He “connects” with me—speaks about things that I deeply agree with but that don’t usually get articulated
• He’s the most open about things, no secrets with him
• He “gets” who I am, is empathetic, understands me

I trust ___ because he has the lowest self-orientation, meaning:

• He’s in it to serve others, not himself
• He hears criticism well, doesn’t get offended easily
• He really listens, without his agenda getting in the way of hearing
• He works on issues, is not preoccupied with self

What do you think? Do these criteria fit with what you think is important? Do they help you articulate your choice?

Do you think “I trust him” is a valid reason to vote for someone? Or not?


4 replies
  1. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    I’m thrilled you published this today, Charlie, and I hope your readers forward it to all the undecided voters they know. (I have!)

    I find that a lot of US voters "trust" politicians that fail most of these criteria, because not everyone is rational or analytical about trust.  One of my biggest (non-partisan) concerns about the American electorate in general is that voters seem to give undue weight to the Intimacy factor (e.g., the candidate ‘seems’ to understand me) at the expense of the other factors in the Trust Equation.

    I also find that in the miasma of cynicism that invades most discussions of politics, the absense of low self-orientation is often presented as a given.  On one hand, I find this line of thinking offensive and just plain factually inaccurate: I’ve worked with amazing candidates at the state and local government level who were wonderful, committed, self-less people who got involved in politics to address important issues and improve the quality of life for people in their communities–and for a higher-profile national example I cite the much-missed late Senator Paul Wellstone.  On the other hand, I find this line of thinking self defeating: I would like to see American voters raise their standards, reject politicians that demonstrate egrgiously high levels of self-orientation, and work hard and support a better grade of elected officials.

    Out of all the criteria,  I would suggest that Reliability is the most neglected in political due dilligence.  I find that many of the politicians with whom I have the most disagreement: A) say one thing and do something completely different; B) receive a free pass from the media on this, which compounds the problem.  I would like to see the media do a more effective and rigorous job of holding politicians accountable for reliability, so that voters have the information to cast an informed vote on this point, and I would like to see politicians (be forced to) do a much better job of aligning rhetoric with action and vice versa.

    The best democracy is a healthy democracy with an engaged electorate that turns out to cast informed votes.  I would love to see higher voter turn-outs, less knee-jerk voting, and more accurate data and analytical thinking informing voters who go to the polls tomorrow.

    Your voting guide is a great start.

    I’m serious about forwarding this to undecided voters.  I’ve sent it to the hold-out undecided voters that I know (yes, they’ve been impervious to my best efforts so far), and I hope your other readers will share it with their undecided voting friends and family members, too.

    (Whew.  I’ve made a great effort to keep all of the above non-partisan.  I’d love a gold star for my efforts if you have any handy.)

  2. Charles H. Green
    Charles H. Green says:


    What an awesome comment.  I find myself nodding at every insight.  I find that in business, the intimacy factor is underrated, but I think you’re right, in politics it’s overdone. 

    And I think you have found a new and effective way to protest against the automatic cynicism we have come to accept in using the language of self-orientation; we ought to demand much better than the self-aggrandizing behavior that has become our expectation.

    You’ve taught me about my own trust equation and at the same time raised my expectations for what we should demand from politics.

    Thank you!


  3. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    Great post Charlie – thanks.  Interestingly, your trust language on credibility ("other relevant people recommend him") probably rings even
    stronger in an election, and I think we can  vary the language. 

    For example, "I don’t trust him because relevant people recommend him,"  which is part of
     of Obama’s recent campaigning  – essentially, we can’t trust McCain because Dick Cheney endorsed him.  

    Another variation:  "I don’t trust him because relevant people don’t recommend him".  That’s what at least some people thought about Obama a
    bunch of months ago – people who were Hillary supporters in the Primaries, and who believed what she had to say about him then.   

    So what happens when Hillary reverses herself and endorses Obama?  At least one voter I know now says:  "I don’t trust him because I no longer trust Hillary".  In that voter’s eyes, Hillary lost credibility by supporting someone she fought hard against
    in the primary because, from that voter’s perspective, Hillary didn’t think Obama would make a good president.  Since Hillary has lost credibility with that voter, and with it trust, that voter doesn’t want to follow Hillary’s current recommendation and as a result, Obama lost that vote.  

    While there are many lessons about trust, two stand out here – Hillary didn’t do a good enough job explaining to that voter why, when she was so strongly against Obama in the Primaries, her reversal should be believable (credible) to that voter.  And, being a "relevant" person, who others come to rely on, carries great responsibility to maintain their trust. 

  4. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Stewart’s voter emulates Shaula’s desire–to take seriously the words of a candidate (Hillary in this case) to the extent of holding them accountable for those words.  That’s a great standard to which politicians can hold themselves accountable.


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