Trust based on what:

This is the “common kind” where trust is built up (or down) through actions – big and small. Either this is directly experienced actions of another, or it is actions “recounted” by others. We see often what we want to see or due to our “unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance”, we in fact do not see very much. How many times have we thought something only to realize that we were unaware of details that provide a change of perspective? And unfortunately, any (small) details are able to change everything in such a complex human ecosystem (with innumerable factors influencing human behaviour).

It is true that for trust to grow – the little things and consistency matter. These are the “what”. However, consistency is even more a matter of “who”.

Trust - MissionMe

Trust based on who:

A trust based on character. Based on who someone is, rather than what someone does. These may seem like two sides of the same coin, but unfortunately reality is much more ambiguous.

When you do not know someone or do not know them well, it is typical that the what explains the who. However, there is a point in the development of a relationship (the Adams Point) where the who begins to explain the what. This happens when two people begin to understand (or feel) the cardinal values of one another. When they begin to understand the mental/emotional/spiritual processes that make them who they are – which will almost always explain what they do. A cardinal value is your deep decision-making pivot point. Everything you do in life, every compromise you make, every decision is being pulled by your cardinal value. You may have not identified it in your life (or colleague/friend/partner); but once you do, you will realize how it pulls and influences every decision you must make. You will even see how it determines the other important values in your life.

Circumstances create the conditions in which values manifest themselves. A value will be expressed through a complex (and always incomplete) understanding of circumstances in a particular time and place. Actions of one person is expressed through the lens of another person. Most values are good at their base, but will lead to actions (due to circumstances) that can appear good or bad. Intentions are often ignored as they are frequently unknown or unknowable (history). But this is more than intentions, this layer, though deeper than actions, still remains too superficial. We can often explain our intentions (or assume the intentions of another), but struggle with what gives source to our (or their) intentions. A perceived action provides very little explanation, like an empty shell, the content is lacking. We quickly fill the shell (for ourselves and for others) with suppositions that are largely projections of ourselves, BUT in an altered context. No interpretation of action is complete without the exact “arena” in which it took place. A value expresses itself differently on a couch than it does on a driver’s seat. A value expresses itself differently in a playground than it does in a battlefield. A value expresses itself differently in a classroom than it does on the operating table. Context is the terrain in which values become actions.

Context is about two things: 1) a perceived environment (in a time and space), by the actor (the one doing the action), and 2) about his or her state-of-mind and emotion triggered by a unique and finite appreciation of circumstances.

What is the purpose of this food for thought? – to remind readers that trusting based on what (perceived actions), must at a certain point in relational development, become a trust based on who. A trust based on who is better able to contend with a complex human system (where context and unknown expressions of values are the key to understanding, not actions).