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CYC-Online Issue 6 JULY 1999 / BACK
Listen to this

Trust??

Penny Parry

The other day I went to a talk on economics and business – all very stuffy I thought, but guess what? This world class economist from Italy outlined the three key factors in small business success – one of which was trust. That's right – he was promoting trust amongst business partners as critical to effective business. I had a rather odd feeling in my gut: this is good insight – trust has been a basic in child and youth care forever; this is late insight – it's about time business woke up! How strange it was to listen to a hard core economist argue that trust – that which begins with risking and, once established, is indicated by a good reputation – is a key factor in building a model of successful small business in the face of the encroaching truism that you must get big and lean and mean to succeed, or in child and youth care, that you must earn trust, or some such thing.

So, I began to think about trust.

First I recalled a young fellow I had known: how this young fellow had stolen the cash box from the residential centre he was at and how there was a big discussion about how he would have to earn back trust. No one could define what he would do to get to this point – just that it would be a long time before he could be trusted. In fact, as I listened I realized that there was no objective criterion he would meet. It was strictly when we felt he was trustworthy. And, no thought was given to whether to express disappointment in how we had trusted and were let down, what had led to this, and what had we done/not done to model trust?

Then, I thought about another incident: when I was on a bus and ran into a young girl who was running away to another town from a group home. I told her to call my friend Hugh and he would come and get her and resolve things with the group home – not that all would be perfect but that he would be there for her. She called him at midnight and, on the basis of her saying that I said to call, he woke his toddler son and drove to the bus station to get her and indeed did work through the issues over the next while with her. There was never a doubt in my mind that I could not trust my friend. There was never a doubt in his that I would only send such a message if I needed it to be acted on. But there had never been any test for him to pass – no criterion he had had to meet for me to know that I could trust him. There had, however, been much risking between us – both sharing ourselves and our caring through genuine friendship.

So, why were the two situations so different? So, when do I trust? Who do I trust and why?

I have always taken the position that I have no control over whether others trust me but I do have control over taking the risk to make myself open/vulnerable as a human being, and in so doing, setting up the atmosphere in which trust can occur. In my early days, I tried very hard to look trustworthy, be trustworthy, earn trust, etc. But, after all this time, I still feel that all I can do is put myself out there “and model risk taking by being myself.

And after all these years, I must say that it still seems to work: people say that I can be trusted. How does this fit with your experience?

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