How Do You Define Trust?

There is a long pause. Either people haven’t thought of a definition, or they haven’t been asked to define trust. At first, it was interesting to hear the answers.

Some said they just do.

Some referred to a “gut” feeling.

Some said they trusted until there was a reason not to, and when asked to elaborate, they spoke of violations or actions that were “untrustworthy.” Stealing, showing up late for work, lying. There was a pause when asked the difference between trust and reliability.

I’ve found myself also struggling to make a distinction, and to define trust.

Much of our interactions today are based on implicit trust. When you apply for a job and research the company on Glassdoor, you’re trusting all of the reviewers have been honest. When you order Uber or Lyft, you are trusting a stranger will get you to your destination safely. When you read the news, you are trusting the sources as well as the journalist and editors that the facts are correct. When you cross the street you trust drivers will obey red lights and traffic laws. When you fly you trust the pilots and crew to safely handle the plane.

We trust blindly every day.

One interesting idea is trusting because there is not an incentive to mistrust. The other person has no incentive to lie, for example, or to not follow the rules. Pilots are trained to handle airplanes safely. Glassdoor reviewers want you to know what is good and bad about a company. Uber and Lyft drivers want to ensure a safe and pleasure passage so you’ll give them a good rating and review.

Trust is an implicit, intangible thing that technology has made tangible.

We trust those who rate experiences and leave feedback are being honest.

The two guys in the photo I took trust no one will try to steal their things. Perhaps they also trust someone will wake them when it’s time to board. Or perhaps they trust themselves to wake up in time.

We trust until there is reason not to.

I don’t know that I agree completely. I am a pessimist and a skeptic, but even I cannot escape trusting until there is reason not to. That is part of the reading relationship. I trust that what is published in The Economist, or The New Yorker is accurate. I trust that Fox News isn’t news.

But that doesn’t answer the question: How Do You Define Trust?

Or: How Do You Define Trust Without Using The Word Trust?