Simon Duffy

Thoughts, Bemusements & Arguments

Tag: trust

How to Reduce the Riskiness of Trust

Confucius says “I do not see how a man can be acceptable who is untrustworthy in word. When a pin is missing in the yoke-bar of a large cart or in the collar-bar of a small cart, how can the cart be expected to go?”

Lao Tzu says “To give no trust is to get no trust”.

We all say we are eager together – to work in partnership others, to co-operate, to share ideas and talents. But often find it really difficult to actually make it happen. There are many good intentions, but often it is hard to follow through on those intentions; other things take over and so we carry on working alone.

There can be no partnership without trust. It is only when you trust someone that you are willing to put yourself in their hands. But trust is hard to achieve between individuals and between organisations.

Keys to trust are:

Time – the Chinese don’t use contracts (or so says Charles Handy) instead they start small and work over time to develop relationships – the contract is a threat – it is the actuality of mutual cooperation and mutual benefit that builds trust.

Values – of course we don’t trust people who we think have bad moral beliefs, we would expect them to let us down or do things that we think are improper. But trust also relies on a certain kind of humility – a willingness to learn – not to use values or political correctness as hammer to beat down the person. Often it is people who make a big fuss about their values who also feel they have the right to abandon ordinary moral standards.

Openness – a sign and a means to greater trust is openness. When developing the federation Altrum we developed a ground rule – you had to share any information you were asked for – this kept out organisations who only wanted to take and who didn’t want to give.

Humanity – trust grows through ordinary human contact, sharing time, food, talking, listening and touching. Only when the other person becomes real can you can start to trust them.

Trust is incredibly efficient. But it can be hard won. Taking the first step will always seem irrational and you will sometimes be let down.

Each time we punish people for problems that arise from misplaced trust then we risk weakening the fabric of society.

Odysseus and Taxation

Sometimes, like Odysseus before the Sirens, we seek to limit ourselves, to put ourselves under the control of others, because we do not trust ourselves.

Insurance has this function – we tax ourselves in order to put something aside in case of adversity. While this strategy can be useful it can be also dangerous.

In a democracy we see the same phenomenon when citizens are taxed from afar, that is passing their resources far away, to higher authorities – only to have them come back (or some proportion of them come back) with strings attached.

Some people like this process, it encourages national uniformity and if you trust those who further away more than you trust yourself or those who are more local it makes sense. But this indicates a kind of weakness and an unintegrated mentality. This encourages centralisation of power and undermines the community’s own development.

Sometimes, as with health care, we are right not to trust ourselves – we would be better to trust others. But we must be wary of unfounded faith in ‘the system’ and ‘the powerful.’

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