Trust or Not to Trust?

We live in an uncertain world, but trust is needed for living a normal life and conducting everyday business tasks. This doesn’t mean that we trust everyone in the world, or even everything that we see, feel, or touch. This explains why we are constantly faced with the decision to trust or not to trust. The word “trust” is sometimes misunderstood, and may have several definitions. The simple one is that trust is a behavior structured around emotional, physical, spiritual, economic, and social satisfaction.

Trust is important for one’s personal life, workplace interactions, and marketplace involvement. A lack of trust creates conflict in one’s personal life and workplace, and can lead to a loss of market share. If we understand the hierarchy of trust, it may be easier for us to make the decision of whether to trust.

Trust Based on Needs
Trust is a learning process that begins as soon as we are born. Just imagine that you are holding a two- or three-month-old baby. The baby starts crying. You try your best to comfort the baby, but the baby won’t stop crying. Then, as soon as the mother takes the baby from your arms, the baby stops crying in her trusted hands. Babies learn to trust their mothers because they are confident that they will satisfy their needs. This is an example of the first learning experience of trust-building based on needs such as foods, comfort, love, and safety. As we grow older, some of our needs will change, and the number of needs will increase. Still, we will continue to trust others based on our needs throughout the duration of our lives. As we get older and become more dependent on others, we once again start trusting others based on more primary needs just as babies trust their mothers.

Trust Based on Spirituality
Trust based on spirituality is a unique kind of trust because it is not trust in another human being, a group of people, or an organization. It is the trust between an invisible, powerful, and intangible entity. This trust is unquestionable, and requires no prior experience, knowledge, or empirical evidence to be built. For example, imagine that you trust a friend to help you prepare for an exam, and then your friend doesn’t help you. You will then question the trustworthiness of your friend. However, imagine that you were spiritually prepared and expected to pass the exam, but then failed it. You would not question your spiritual trust, and would instead seek out a rational explanation to maintain its strength. This is why spiritual trust becomes the foundation for building self-trust.

Trust Based on Emotions
As we grow older and hone our abilities to understand our emotions, we also begin trusting based on our emotions. Do you remember the first time you met a girl or boy that you really liked? You may remember that you started trusted him or her and consequently may have wanted to spend the rest of your life with that person. This was probably a trust based on emotions. Emotional trust arises out of emotional needs, and sometimes in such cases there is an absence of rational thinking. Trust based on the emotions is the result of certain emotional experiences, emotional attachments, emotional dependency, and variability in emotional control. People of all ages use emotions to build trust to benefit from each other. With this type of trust, though, there is always a chance of one party taking advantage of the other because of the emotional basis.

Trust Based on Knowledge and Experience
If you trust your doctor, you do so because of his or her knowledge and experience. If you are in a classroom and interested in learning, you are doing so because you trust the instructor or professor based on his or her knowledge and experience. The result from trusting the doctor may lead to good health, and trusting the professor may lead to gaining knowledge that is needed to be successful in the workplace or elsewhere. The kind of trust between both doctors and patients and professors and learners is based on information regarding the knowledge and experience of the parties involved in the trust-based relationship, and this type of trust benefits both parties.

Generally, we build trust based on another person’s knowledge and experience, and we also use our knowledge and experience to trust others.

To Trust or Not to Trust?
The question of whether to trust is sometimes difficult because of our changing environments and our lack of information for making certain decisions. If significant information is available, and we have already had a positive experience with an individual, group, or institution, it is easier to make the decision to trust. For example, it is often easy for people to make decisions to trust politicians based on information regarding past experiences of broken promises.

The following is a list of ten things that may help you when making the decision to trust:

  1. Trust is a behavior that shows your level of confidence in others.
  2. Trust involves two or more responsive participants.
  3. Trust is built if two parties have the same level confidence in each other.
  4. Trust is built on information, knowledge, or experience that can easily be established.
  5. Trust based on needs is a one-way trust, and can be easily violated by others.
  6. Trust that is based on economics is always short-term trust.
  7. Trust is difficult to establish with addicts because they often abuse the trust of others.
  8. Trust is difficult to establish based on individual emotions.
  9. The trust that is the foundation of self-trust is spiritual trust.
  10. Trust can always be manipulated if one party changes its mind about the relationship.

Finally, trust brings stability in our lives, and the misuse of trust leads to emotional, physical, economic, and social instability. Therefore, we need to ask ourselves whether we should trust before really trusting others.

© 2017 Mohammed R. Ahmed
Ahmed, M.R. (2017). Trust or Not to Trust? (Working Paper No. 23).
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