“Trust me” is an oft-used expression by parents, adults and professionals to instill a sense of comfort for the advice they are giving or the advice they are telling others that their words are to be believed and truly trustworthy. But how do we get to the point? How do we get our children, fellow citizens, our patients, our business clients or colleagues to trust us?
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to state that “trust is the currency of social interaction” — that trust is the basis of how we can make our words and deeds worthy of the privilege of serving others or the privilege of telling others of what we think they should be doing. But the currency of social interaction needs to be developed and nurtured continually. Its key components are:
• Truth – a series of facts together constitute the truth. The truth allows for people to communicate honestly and interact honestly with the confidence and security of a caring contact.
• Knowledge – Sincere interactions are characterized by knowledge that is based on vast experience and used in a caring manner.
• Humanity – A trustworthy contact is always conducted with the understanding that we are on equal footing with our fellow citizens. We recognize our shared humanity and wish to help others but help in a humble fashion realizing that we can work together now and in the future.
• Empathy – The ability to understand what others feel and understand the situation of others is vital to learn how to interact with some degree of authenticity in interpersonal relationships.
• Dependability – Our ability to be consistent in our interactions demonstrates how dependable we are. It demonstrates how others see our reactions and the consistency of those reactions. It demonstrates our resolve to act and react in measured ways that are predictable.
• Confidence – It is not always possible to be exceedingly confident in all of our interactions, but reasonable confidence tells others that we will be reasonable and honest in our interactions.
In my professional career as a medical geneticist and pediatrician, my patients and families expect me to be truthful, knowledgeable, humane, empathetic, dependable and confident in my demeanor and actions. If I am successful in those spheres, then what I say and how I say it will be seen as trustworthy. When I say “trust me,” I have to be honest. I have to use the medical information that I know and acknowledge the information that I don’t know. Doctors don’t know everything. We have to be honest about our gaps in knowledge and how those gaps might impact our joint decision-making with our families. I have to engage the family in this decision-making. Only then will my words and actions be trusted. If these interactions occur multiple times over an extended period of time, patients and families develop an even greater trust that continually strengthens. This process is ongoing and neverending.
The professional trust discussed immediately above holds for so many relationships – pastoral, parental, familial, colleague, business, educational and many more. Most important, trust that is based on truth, knowledge, humanity, empathy, dependability and confidence serves as the best currency of social interactions. The confidence and security found in a trustworthy relationship offers a piece of mind that is crucial going forward. But we all know that there will be ups and downs in the process of developing and nurturing trust. The more consistency that we demonstrate over time, the more likely we are to be trusted.
We all want our currency of our social interactions – trust – to be valued. This currency only accrues value if we invest in the efforts and accept our ongoing responsibility. We want to trust others and we want them to trust us.