Trust: It’s the Bottom Line of Life

Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam, a community leader and manager of an NGO in South India, is an inspiring young man. He and his small group of people have dedicated their lives to provide basic health care, education and support to tribal groups in the region. He said that his experience with the tribes taught him a very important lesson:

unless you are willing to trust, and be trusted by people, life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”.

There are quite a few things that have happened recently that made me also think about trust, how important it is for our lives. There is an unprecedented crisis that affects us all. Companies close, people are left unemployed; there is a lot of insecurity and uncertainty out there. Many seem to have lost their confidence in their government or even towards society as a whole. Others feel betrayed as if somehow a contract has been broken. I have heard too many speak of their lost faith in the human kind; they are our friends, our neighbors, our family.

Our lives are woven together as in a fabric, but the connections that used to make society strong now seem to make us vulnerable. What we seem to be lacking of is trust and somehow this seems to have a negative effect on everyone’s life.  It is proven for example that where trust is low, crime and corruption are high.

From a business perspective, IBM boss Thomas J. Watson notes that: “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.”

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Trust is valuable and needs to be fostered. Trust is the key. When you are in a relationship, if you can’t trust the person you are with, the relationship will fail. Trust involves a degree of vulnerability; People feel safe in the hands of another therefore share personal information, feelings, thoughts. It is necessary in a romantic relationship, in a relationship of a patient with a doctor, in a relationship between a customer and a company, between a citizen and his government. Trust is a silent contract; people have confidence that the other part will not act or use information shared against their interests and will fulfill a certain role.

Almost everything evolves a relationship of trust. A trivial thing like driving a car is based on trust. If I didn’t trust that the drivers of the cars coming against me would stay on their own side of the road, driving would become a very difficult and dangerous experience. A law is valid only when people trust that it is on their interest and act accordingly.

To give another example, if I was lost in a country I‘ve never been and I didn’t trust the people, I would be quite stressed and full of anxiety when asking directions or any kind of request. I would personally spend a lot of time and energy to evaluate the correctness of the information handed to me in fear of being tricked into an unknown and unpleasant situation. You’ve seen horror movies. You know how it all starts and how it ends. Can you really trust these strange people?

Yes, you guessed correctly, low trust makes you paranoid…

The simple fact is that you don’t have to get lost in a strange country with strange people to become paranoid. Just ask all those who don’t trust their government. Maybe they have a real reason.  According to recent researches, fewer Americans than ever trust their government to solve their problems. The same goes for British and Greeks  to give but a few examples of a growing global tendency.

And what happens when citizens don’t trust politicians? They seem to get drawn towards conspiracy theories. In Greece, more and more people believe in the theory of chemtrails. Paranoia, is a sign of low trust and signifies a severely damaged relationship; in the case of Greece between citizens and government.

We live in times of a crisis. These are difficult times for many that test the strength of our relationships. This is true for individuals, as it is for companies and governments. My recent observations would suggest that nowadays more than ever progression in business demands uncommon levels of trust. Buyers are more nervous than ever before. And it makes sense.

The only way to turn this situation around is by really caring for your customer. You see, the thing about trust is that you can’t fake it. And this is where actions speak louder than words. Action is the only language of trust.

In the field of business, an example of such an action that helps foster a relationship of trust is a software escrow agreement http://www.ironmountain.co.uk/services/software-escrow.

. It is signed between developers and users of software to ensure that despite what happens, in case of an uncontrolled catastrophe, due to a bankruptcy or a merger with another company, the user of the product will not be left without access to the source code that might be required for maintenance, disaster recovery or upgrades. And this can make the difference.

As Emmanuel Sumithran Gnanamanickam said, trust is vital; without it “life cannot go on, because a lot of what happens in life is based on trust. It’s the bottom line of life”. In our difficult times (which will unfortunately be with us for quite a long) this is truer than ever. In the end, “to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved” (George MacDonald, The Marquis of Lossie, 1877). Just think about it.