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The Role of Trust in Business, Politics, and Life

Trust is easy to define, but often difficult to live out in our lives with others. Simply put, trust is confidence in the character and behavior of another in regard to predictability, reliability, dependability, integrity, and regularity. Trust is the basis of community. People must be able to trust one another in politics, commerce, and, when necessary, combat.

Trust within a social network creates the reasonable expectation of civility and predicable behavior. Trust allows us to increase the complexity and richness of our lives. And without trust, our relationships are incoherent and uncoordinated. Without trust, how would one be able to negotiate the most pedestrian kinds of consumer or public interactions?

Although much of the popular literature refers to trust as a lubricant, a glue, a medium, or an atmosphere, I believe that these metaphors are not accurate. Trust is not an entity, a thing, or a one-time epoxy. Trust is an active part of our lives. Trust is an option and something that we have to reinforce to maintain. Trust is something that we individually do; it is something that we make, we create, we build, we maintain, we sustain with our promises, our commitments, our emotions, and our sense of integrity.

Trust, like love, doesn’t just happen to us; it’s a choice. We don’t just fall in love. We learn, and, ultimately, choose to love. So, too, we learn and choose to trust. Trust is neither a birthright nor a gift that will last forever. Trust is something we earn. Nor can trust be taken for granted. Like love, trust dies if it is not cared for and renewed. When a leader, a business associate or friend lies to us, fails to honor a commitment, demeans or belittles us, we begin to doubt the quality of the relationship. If they persist in this sort of behavior, sooner or later the relationship will change.

Trusting is a decision that opens the world to us, building and deepening our relationship with others, and creating new possibilities for us. Trusting allows us to work and coordinate our actions with other people precisely because we are confident of what we are doing. Without trust, neither civility, conviviality, commerce, finance, nor morality and ethics are possible.

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