5 things to do when you cannot trust

Third in the series on 'Trust'

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We will never be able to conduct a business transaction, without the trust that others follow unwritten professional codes. We cannot hop onto a plane, without the trust that the pilots knows their job. Trust is implicit in practically, all our transactions of life, and yet,

We are never so vulnerable, than when we trust someone

Walter Anderson


  1. Memory is the most important component of our psyche

We remember all the times, when someone somewhere did not meet our expectations.

The gizmo I ordered online turned out to be a defective piece, and the sellers did not replace it. It makes me weary of online shopping in the future.

2. The perils of technology

Technology has made life incredibly smooth. But, it is vulnerable enough to be tampered with. It is just another tool in the hands of manipulators. We have never been so exposed, as we are, in a life governed by technology and social media.

I know young girls weary of using a good headshot on their social media profiles. The pics posted may have an activity shot, that makes them look distant. It may have a pout, that makes them look less than attractive. It stems from a fear of the picture being misused.

3. The profit culture

A loss-making business and defeated human being are both looked down upon. Hence, attempts will be made to maximize gains, even if it is at the expense of someone else. It is about survival and self-esteem.

There is an idiom in Hindi, which says “What will a horse eat, if it befriends the grass?”.

4. The nature of a relationship

Certain organizations and professionals are advised to maintain ‘arm’s length’ from predetermined sections. Banks have ‘negative lists’ for lending i.e. the lending policy considers the creditworthiness of certain sections to be low.

These structures are built on sound business logic, but a lack of trust is inbuilt in the nature of the relationship.

5. Attribution of a motive

We assume that the other person or entity would not interact with us, if it was not for some gain. There is an African saying, which is “Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt”.

A ‘free’ seminar or event is expected to contain a business pitch for certain products/services.


  1. Storytelling conundrum

We need to understand that our thought processes are a product of the stories that we have heard and believed throughout our lives. The stories we hear are certainly, colored by the teller’s perspective, and hence, cannot be taken as the whole, objective truth.

My father often said that he did not believe in living on credit (for personal needs). Maybe the needs were limited, interest rates were high and loan processes tedious, in his day and age. Since that is not the scenario today, I need not view every lender offering a credit plan with suspicion. A good deal might makes sound financial sense. Some people find playing the stock market akin to gambling. Some believe that it is a calculated risk, and no magnate in the world has become rich, without holding a powerful portfolio.

2. Manage expectations

Discuss the action plan, influencing factors, timelines, terms and conditions to set clear expectations. This reduces the occurrence of misplaced trust, and consequent feelings of betrayal.

Doctors have often heard this one,

‘I thought that with your expertise, you will certainly save the life of my son.’

A long discussion about the actual condition of the patient, and possible solutions should have preceded the treatment.

3. Keen observation

Develop a keen eye for non-verbal signals, to understand the other person’s ‘real story’. We are in control of the words that we speak, but the body reflects the actual emotion that we are feeling at that moment. Handshakes and eye movement are a big give-away, and my hunches about a person have proved to be correct, more than once.

It will enhance your perspective of the situation. Here are a few lines from a  poem of mine

Time is not linear

But chooses its direction

The imprints left on thoughts

Shape all future action.

What really mattered, was the words you did not say

And the pauses gave you away.

4. Conversational skills

Use more open-ended and non-threatening questions to help the other person open up. It builds a bond, creates an atmosphere of mutual trust, and reveals much-needed information.

  • What are you assuming about the situation?
  • What are the priorities in this situation?
  • What other benefits would it give you?
  • What is your main concern here?
  • Who is affected by this issue other than you?

5. Interpretations

We form expectations and beliefs based on the ‘meanings’ that we have attributed to certain words and terminologies. Everything that a person does is governed by his or her ‘unconscious choice’. The meaning of anything is assigned or chosen, and does not inherently exist.

The barrier could be language, culture or a mental association of the word emanating out of a previous experience. Ask the person what was s/he seeing on the mental radar, as s/he spoke that word.

“What does this mean to you?”


I do not think so.

Trust is a component of a relationship between two dynamic entities. The priorities and perspectives will keep changing forever. We think that we know people based on their history. We are not aware that something could have shifted this very moment, while we are interacting with them. It is also possible, that the cause of the shift emanated from us.

There is no alternative to staying alert for possible deceit or miscommunication.

Experience is taking the shocks and knocks.

I know the threshold where positivity falls.

I have traversed the long and spiral road

from Hope to Expectation to Stonewalls.

And there is no alternative to trusting people and procedures, in our day-to-day lives.

Originally published at reinventions.in

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