Friday, August 10, 2012

To trust or not to trust

Most humans have a natural disposition to trust and to judge trustworthiness that can be traced to the neurobiological structure and activity of a human brain. However, on a day to day basis, it's not that simple. This disposition is not always there. Why? Because every experience you've had feeds into this decision process of trusting or not trusting someone in a given situation. Yes, trust is a decision. 

How do we decide then to trust or not to trust children? What part does our past experiences play in that decision process? How often do our fears interfere in trusting children and allowing them to trust themselves?  I say, all the time; more than it should. 

Do we see children as trustworthy individuals or helpless beings that need to be rescued? How do we expect them to trust their own instincts if we don't let them test them? The way we perceive children is reflected in everyday moments such as a visit to the local park. This great article from the blog Core Parenting explains how a mother decides to trust her children by letting them climb at their own pace and regulate their own bodies allowing them to try something new and to set their own limits. "Success doesn’t always mean making it to the top." Don't miss it, It's a great read.  

Trust is a universal topic. It is relevant to children, mothers, businessmen, and leaders of all paths of life. The more I work in the world of early childhood education the more I find how similar it is to the business world, a world I vastly explored as marketing and business consultant in my past life (as I like to call it). People are often surprised when they hear this idea.   It is believed that the world of children is so different from the "real" world, and it isn't. It is the same reality seen from a different perspective. Let see an example.  

How do organizations build trust? There are many approaches and theories that have been written. Here is an excerpt from an article from Inc Magazine about the topic:

"So how can you implement a strategy to build a trust culture in your workplace? It's ideal if it starts at the top of an organization, but that's not always necessary..., but the simplest approach is a three-tiered commitment to a few core trust principles:

Capability trust, or allowing people to make decisions, involving them in discussions, and trusting that their opinions and input will be useful.
Contractual trust, or being consistent in terms of keeping agreements and managing expectations.
Communication trust, or sharing information, providing constructive feedback and speaking with good purpose about people.

As noted American writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway famously said, "the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." If your trust is abandoned, then you know the answer, but until then, give them the benefit of your trust."

Now tell me, which part doesn't apply to adult-children relationships? Surprised? Let's continue. 

Another article, Trust Rules, summarizes Dr. Duane C. Tway, Jr. dissertation, A Construct of Trust. Tway proposes and interesting concept: The Three Constructs of Trust.

"Tway defines trust as, "the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something." He developed a model of trust that includes three components. He calls trust a construct because it is "constructed" of these three components: "the capacity for trusting, the perception of competence, and the perception of intentions."

Thinking about trust as made up of the interaction and existence of these three components makes trust easier to understand. 

The capacity for trusting means that your total life experiences have developed your current capacity and willingness to risk trusting others.

The perception of competence is made up of your perception of your ability and the ability of others with whom you work to perform competently at whatever is needed in your current situation. 

The perception of intentions, as defined by Tway, is your perception that the actions, words, direction, mission, or decisions are motivated by mutually-serving rather than self-serving motives."

From my point of view, the core principles and the three constructs of trust are as applicable in the workplace as they are in family life or any adult-children relationship. Am I capable to trust a children climbing in the park?  Can I trust them? Do I perceive them as competent in measuring their own limits and their ability to manage their own bodies? How do I perceive their actions and intentions? Am I making a decision based on safety or excessive protection and untrustworthiness due to my own fears or a non related past experience or belief? 

These core trust principles and constructs allow us to perform a reality check. They are a tool to monitor our thoughts and fears and allow us to make a clear judgement of any situation when making the decision to trust or not to trust, in a business setting or at the park. 

Even though I wrote this post a few years ago it is still relevant. If you want to here more about trust and other important principles of parenting  sign up for a 2 hour workshop on

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