Trust in real life

Draft in progress

When someone has an objection to what you’re saying, it is more likely that they don’t trust you enough rather than you being wrong.

Example, let’s say you’re looking for a job and you talk face to face with someone you just met from the company that advertises that job.

If you say something along the line of “I am following this industry and I am keen to work on such and such topics”, they’ll say “Oh, that’s great but bear in mind that you have to specialize in something, get deep knowledge in a topic.”

OK, now let’s wind back the clock and say we did some magic and you try again, this time knowing what they would answer to you.

Because you’ve learned and you anticipate their response, you’ll say something along the line of “I am following this industry but more importantly I am really confident in this particular topic where I am doing my research towards my degree” and so on. They’ll now say “Oh, that’s great but bear in mind that you also have to know the big picture such that we can actually work with our clients and within a team.

“What?! But those are the only two options that I can try with them — generalist or specialist. If I try to be both, a) no one is going to believe me, b) you really can’t know them all, however much effort you put in.”

Which leaves us in a conundrum, suspecting that something really shady is happening here. Some people learn over time that there is no single right answer, no silver bullet, no absolutes and no guarantees. There are degrees in which we can know something or we can be sure about something, and until here it’s all scientific and kosher. What happens is when we rip off the ideal situation and we break into the real life, where people specifically do not act as rational agents, taking rational decisions. Emotions are a double edge sword with which we can navigate through heaps of information, filtering in and out, reframing, seeing something as different than it really is, in order to (maybe) take better decisions.

So, to come back to our initial situation, what might happen there?

As in any other area of social sciences research, to say that you have an answer is plain ignorance and hubris. Our ability to disseminate and isolate the problem, its causes and its potential solutions is rather limited but I’ll try to advance my argument here. It’s about trust. People need to trust one another in order to conduct any kind of productive work, be it only exchanging information. The less we trust someone, the more tit-for-tat behavior will take place. The more we trust someone, the higher probability is that we will go on with their judgement, ideas, pleas or requests.

From this angle, the solution is simple: just be trustworthy.

Now, aiming to be trustworthy is pedantic and will only bring you trouble. The analogy would be that if you focus on having lots of money, you will fail miserably. But if you focus on how to make that happen instead of the goal itself, then you are likely to increase your chances. Bringing the point home, you will focus on the things that actually signal trust.

Unfortunately, in the last paragraph we slipped back into the ideal world. Trust can be socially hacked and business profit a lot on this. Signals include everything from displays of wealth, to fake Instagram accounts, to fake degrees, to fake lifestyles, only to lure fans/suckers into a story that can be further monetized.

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