“I have been burned by people where I have trusted their pretty words, and not their actions…I’m a bit clueless about dealing with those things. Do you have a quick and easy way of [helping me with this]?”
This question from the audience at a recent event in Australia (see the video below) led me to this response:
I’ve been burned more than once over the years by trusting someone for all the right reasons and getting either stabbed in the back or abandoned in a business deal.
The temptation then is to say that maybe I should adjust my expectations and assume that people are not trustworthy. It might be safer; I’ll have my defenses in place. I won’t get hurt as much.
For me, that is exactly the wrong decision.
I’ve chosen to extend my trust first and give people the opportunity to deliver on that. And if they prove me wrong, I just learn from that particular relationship, and I move on.
But I refuse to let it change my point of view that human beings are fundamentally well-meaning, loving, and good at heart.
How about you?
Do you trust first, or doubt first?
Either way, what words of caution, encouragement, or advice do you have for the more trusting among us?
Teresa Irizarry says
I was with him until he said we are all loving and good at heart. We all want to be, and yet we are all tempted not to be so. Trusting first is the right answer, but with eyes wide open. We assist each other in resisting temptation by checking for truth, consistency and delivery on promise.
TJ Brensel says
I think the key to what Steve is asserting comes in the very last sentence in which he states that his Point of View is that people are fundamentally good. As he says, he’s been burned before, so he obviously isn’t delusional or oblivious to the fact that sometimes you trust and pay the price. I would say the key take away is that the price of trusting first (sometimes being burned) is worth it. I see it as a tie to the OS!M concept. There’s no suggestion here that you take foolish risks, but that you act from a point of view of trust in the fundamental (but definitely not absolute) goodness of human beings.
Steve Farber says
Hi Teresa! It’s always good to have eyes wide open–a requirement, in fact. I don’t think that each and every person is loving and good at heart. Narcissists do exist, for example. As do sociopaths and downright nasty, evil buggers. But, I also think that they’re a very small minority, and that’s why, as you say, “Trusting first is the right answer” as opposed to lowering our approach to the lowest common denominator. And as TJ says in his reply, “There’s no suggestion here that you take foolish risks, but that you act
from a point of view of trust in the fundamental (but definitely not
absolute) goodness of human beings.”
You sort out a very important variable here Steve. Too often people don’t think beyond this conundrum and just go with the fearful view of how to work with each other. Really helpful stuff here.
TJ Brensel says
Thanks for sharing, Steve! Someday I need to hear your present. And get certified. For now those dreams have to wait. Back on topic. I agree with the concept of trusting first. That being said, we all have to ensure that we’re trusting intelligently. The point isn’t to be foolish and give the keys to your home to a total stranger or tank a business by making unwise choices. It’s about giving others a fair shot. In business, there are many opportunities to demonstrate trust and provide that opportunity for others to take on greater responsibilities. And then you can try trusting them again, and again, which is critical for their development.
Steve Farber says
Amen to that, TJ! And as I suggested in my reply to Coach Jennie’s comment, if you extend your trust to a person who turns out to be less than trustworthy, there’s also a time to cut and run. Looking forward to seeing you at Certification some day!
Coach Jennie says
Yes. This. Your response in this video demonstrates precisely why I look to you as my mentor, Steve.
I’ve always been very trusting, too. I’ve been called “trusting to a fault” repeatedly by my family and friends who wish I would be more careful and guarded. And I’ve certainly been burned more than a few times, like you said. But I continue to assume/expect the best in people…and most of the time, they prove me right.
Thank you for sharing this with the world!
Steve Farber says
Thanks, Jennie! “Trusting to a fault” is an interesting phrase. I guess
it would be a fault if you kept trusting the same back-stabber over and
over again with similar results. But in my opinion, it’s certainly not a
fault to start on a foundation of trust and take it from there.
Hi, timely and
interesting that I would get this email. I was just talking with some of
team members about the very same issue. I, like you, tend to extend my trust
first and allow people to live up to that full potential. In conversations with
my team members who said they are reluctant to do this because they have been “burned” in the past it came to light that they were trusting people who did not share the same wants, needs, goals, and moral values. I think the challenge
in life and work is to align yourself with people who you share these values
with, when they are clear about what your vision is and aligned with your
values, trust is the simple part.
Steve Farber says
Well said, George. A set of shared values is a huge part of what makes trust work. We could both consider ourselves trustworthy, but if we have very different values and expectations, our perceptions of each other will be skewed, to say the least. In my experience, we get to those shared values through lots of meaningful dialogue and a good dose of trial and error.
People often call me naive because of how I trust people. But I truly feel that there are more people in the world that will deliver on that trust given to them than there are not. Then of those that won’t, I believe most of those have not had someone trust them. So my trust in them may be the first, one of several, or maybe even the last one needed for them to begin to be a trustworthy person. Thus these are also a hopeful group. That will leave a true small amount of people that are truly untrustworthy. Those tend to have all kinds of warning signs that scream at us. But even those, I will trust, yet a more guarded trust.
So, I may be naive. But I have found that yes I do get burned at times, but there are far more times that I have helped others by entrusting in them. (I also benefit by being more open!)
People often call me naive because of how I trust people. But I
truly feel that there are more people in the world that will deliver on
that trust given to them than there are not. Then of those that won’t, I
believe most of those have not had someone trust them. So my trust in
them may be the first, one of several, or maybe even the last one needed
for them to begin to be a trustworthy person. Thus these are also a
hopeful group. That will leave a true small amount of people that are
truly untrustworthy. Those tend to have all kinds of warning signs that
scream at us. But even those, I will trust, yet a more guarded trust.
I may be naive. But I have found that yes I do get burned at times, but
there are far more times that I have helped others by entrusting in
them. (I also benefit by being more open!)
Lori Pearlmutter says
Many years ago our family went through a last minute failed
adoption. I had personally spent hours, days helping this young woman and when
she changed her mind at the last minute I felt used. I was talking to a friend of mine about how stupid I was to
trust and hope. I felt I should have been more guarded, but my friend made me
see the experience in a different light.
She told me I helped that woman, took her to doctors’ visits, bought her
groceries, drove her places because I was a good, kind person. She made me realize that I didn’t need
to blame myself for being too trusting and naïve but to celebrate my kindness
and compassion. Since that time several
“good” friends, my workplace of 20 years and some of my community have burned
me. But I refuse to stop
trusting. First of all, the
numbers of those bad experiences are not even a fraction of the amazing
positive experiences I have had during that same time. I am always humbled by
how many people have been willing to sacrifice to help me out in difficult
times. Those things wouldn’t have
happened if I had stopped trusting because I was burned a few times.
But even more importantly, if I stop trusting than the
people who “burned” me have won.
Why would I ever change who I am because of someone else’s bad behavior?
Integrity means someone is the same person at work, at home, in the community
or when he/she is alone. Integrity
means that one doesn’t change whom he/she is in order to adapt to others. In staying true to myself, in being
kind, compassionate and trusting, I am living the life I want to live. Will I be “burned” again? Probably. But who cares. I have
learned, sometimes many years after an interaction, that my trusting nature and
positivity made a lasting impact on somebody. I have even had people search me out to thank me. I have had the fortune of having friends and acquaintances
tell me that my attitude and behavior helped them through difficult times. Would I want to lose that opportunity to
help others and/or to live life to the fullest by becoming fearful, wary and
suspicious? There will always be
people who don’t live up to our expectations or who do things to us that are
wrong. It’s part of life. But I choose joy and love over fear and
mistrust every time.
By the way, the year after the failed adoption, I trusted
again, and adopted my wonderful daughter.
She is a teenager now, but I can still say she is the joy of my
TJ Brensel says
Your story is truly inspiring. You made a huge difference in the life of that woman who didn’t go through with the adoption and I like to think that child had a better life because of it. Your friend at the time was very insightful and supportive. What a great perspective!
You really hit integrity on the head. It’s about being who you are, holding to your values, and not changing due to fashion or outside pressures (like getting burned!) We learn, we grow, but we don’t change who we are just because life has delivered a serious blow.
Thank you for sharing, Lori!
Steve Farber says
Thanks for this, Lori. I love what you say about integrity: “In being kind, compassionate and trusting, I am living the life I want to live.” And your daughter is living proof of that truth.
Finally I have time to post my comment.
I saw this discussion in the video you posted the other day. I was quite pleased with your response. It’s pretty much verbatim what I would have said.
I agree with you that Trust is a critical variable in today’s society; especially in business and management.
Trust is one of the Five Coordinates of the High Point Way. Without the wisdom and courage to Trust, we are very limited in the actions we can take to make a difference. Seems to me that the courage to Trust our convictions is a hallmark of Extreme Leadership. It’s certainly the stuff of a OS!M.