Trust is a form of powerlessness that empowers other people to bring out the best in themselves. It is the belief that another person is reliable, that they can and will do what they commit to. The problem with trust is that it is either absolute or non-existent. You can’t partially trust someone; it is the same thing as saying I don’t fully believe in them. And that is the problem with leadership, and in relationships, it is either that you trust other people and believe in their abilities, or you have reservations about their capabilities. People know when you don’t believe in them.
We don’t appreciate how hard it is to trust other people. There is a great degree of vulnerability in trusting someone else, regardless of what we trust them with. The act of trust requires that we put something important to us in the hands of another person. It could be our emotions or a task, but we are opening ourselves up for disappointment if they cannot follow through on their responsibilities.
Trust requires an intense degree of patience. It often requires that we take the long view and don’t judge when someone comes up short. Too often, we assume that someone is not capable because they can’t follow through in the early stages. At the first signs of failure or unreliability, we withdraw our trust in that person. Trust requires patience because you must remain non-reactive to a person’s shortcomings. The irony of trust is that it requires the continued renewal of commitment for it to work. You can’t withdraw trust at the first sign of a problem; instead, you must have faith that this person will have the fortitude to follow through on their promises.
Without trust, we are destined to be alone. Everybody makes mistakes or fails to follow through, us included. If we pull away when the other person tries their best but comes up short, we are saying that they can’t live up to our standards; they don’t possess the power deep within them to do better or try harder.
Trust creates a sense of responsibility between people. When we trust someone else, we empower them through our vulnerability. We allow them to render us powerless by taking our emotions and responsibilities into their hands. Although we might be the ones entrusting something to someone else, they feel more connected to us. The act of placing our faith in that person is a statement of our opinion of them. It goes beyond words and helps other people to feel a deepened sense of self-worth.
By placing our trust in another person, we are saying that we believe in their abilities. That is why the best leaders must trust in their team. These leaders are giving other people the opportunity to do their best. Even during failures, these leaders don’t withdraw this sense of faith, but instead, they double down. When leaders continue to have faith, they deepen the bond and intimacy with their people, and the team feels it.
Trust is also the cornerstone of genuine romantic relationships. Many people fail to get the love they want because they don’t allow themselves to experience the powerlessness of trusting another person with their authenticity. Because they aren’t willing to take that risk, they never feel what it is like to be wholly accepted. It is the powerlessness that enables people to provide us with the love that we crave.
Trust is cyclical. The more we trust someone else, the greater the return on trust.
This article shouldn’t be taken as a push for blind trust; it is the opposite. Depending on what we entrust another person with, we need to do our due diligence. But once we decide to trust, we need to give the other person the opportunity to succeed. It requires us to be honest with other people when they aren’t living up to our expectations and that they are risking the possibility of losing our trust. If we aren’t honest with other people, then how would they know that they are falling short of our expectations and risking the possibility of losing our trust.
At the center of trust is a degree of self-awareness. If we don’t know what we expect from other people when we trust them, how can they live up to our standards? Lacking self-awareness is a recipe for constant disappointment and difficulty placing trust in other people. The irony is that if we aren’t clear on our expectations and are quick to withdraw our trust because another person can’t live up to our standards, then we aren’t trustworthy.