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  • Writer's pictureStefano Calvetti

Trust: the elementary particle in interpersonal relationships - Part 1

It's all about trust. Always and with anyone, even with ourselves. Trust me. 😊

Recently, talking with a friend about leadership, he told me that, according to him, "leadership is about managing a relationship of trust." In that conversation, we reflected on the role of trust and how the lack of it affects the work environment. Most of us saw micromanagement in action: the boss does everything or controls and manages every step of the process. There is no freedom, no initiative. There is no team. There is no fun. I have seen it, unfortunately.

Actually, broadening the horizon even beyond the leadership perspective, every relationship we establish with another person, with an organization, and even with an object starts from this elementary particle: trust.

For this reason, I decided to delve into this topic and share with you my thoughts and what I have discovered in exploring the concept and role of trust. And because it is a long and complex topic, this article is only the first part where we will just explore its meaning and types.

two hands closed into fists touch each other, as a sign of mutual trust
There is no meaningful interpersonal relationship without trust

The meaning of "trust"

Trust is a complex psychological and social concept that refers to the security and certainty of the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. It is the expectation that the other party will act in a way that is beneficial or at least not harmful to one's own interests.

What we do and with whom we do it is based on the level of trust we have with ourselves or with the person or object with whom we are acting. To draft this article, I am using a computer and software that I am sure will allow me to complete and memorize it. When a client comes to me, he trusts my coaching skills. When we come to the court system, we trust the judge's impartial decision. When we give work to a person, we trust their abilities.

In short, there is no relationship if there is no trust.

In my exploration of the topic, I have identified two macro-categories of trust: direct trust and indirect trust.

Direct trust

Direct trust is based on what are our perceptions and experiences. There is then a personal interaction with the person or object of our trust, and the level of this trust increases or decreases based on what our perceptions and connections are on an emotional level. Certainly, it is the category of trust that can rise to the highest levels.

  • First impression: Why do we sometimes meet a person and feel that we can trust them -at least to a certain extent? This is instinctive, visceral trust, based on feelings at a subconscious level. It develops "at first sight" but is nonetheless structured on what our previous experiences are. For example, we tend to trust people who have similar characteristics to individuals with whom we have had positive interactions or to ourselves. The sense of community arises from this very element, that is, I trust you because you are like me. This typology is not only based on physical aspects but also on other elements such as -for example- dress. If we meet a person in a doctor's coat, we tend to trust them unless we have had negative experiences in the past.

  • Interpersonal trust: This is the kind of trust on which all interpersonal relationships are based, nurtured by direct experiences and the feelings and emotions they entail. Friendship, love relationships, and also professional partnerships grow solely if mutual trust grows.

  • Self-confidence: It is the confidence one has in oneself to make decisions, face challenges, and act according to one's values and beliefs. It is a fundamental aspect of self-esteem and emotional well-being and involves several elements, including self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-confidence. This confidence plays a key role in how one interacts with the world, influencing everything from interpersonal relationships to professional success.

Indirect trust

Indirect trust, on the other hand, is that which arises from external factors and not from personal experience. It is a crude type of trust that still needs direct experiences to grow.

  • Referred trust: "Go to that dentist because he is really good." How many times have we heard (and said similar phrases)? When a person we directly trust recommends something to us, we feel we can follow their advice, or at least try. Here, then, we go to that dentist or buy that item. Because we trust the person who gives us the advice, we feel we can also trust the object of the advice.

  • Trust in the process: When we buy a new car, someone will also look at the safety aspects that are evaluated according to an internationally recognized procedure. So we trust that machine because we believe in how it has been evaluated from a safety perspective, even if we have no idea what the tests and criteria are to assign that evaluation. In short, this is trust in a process that leads to a certification that is generally accepted as a certificate of quality. This is why many professionals make a big show of their diplomas. They want to send us the message "Trust me because I have the nice quality certificates you see hanging on the wall."

  • Institutional trust: It is trust in the social system or structure, such as the legal organization. We trust a court because we want impartial treatment. We trust the person in uniform because he or she represents an organization in which we believe.

  • Collective trust: Surely it has occurred to you, before you buy something online or go to a restaurant you are unfamiliar with, to check reviews online. It is a type of trust that leverages the wisdom of the masses and the fact that removed from detractors and friends of the advertiser, the rest are genuine comments from people who have tried the item before. For that matter, the fact that a website that collects feedback on companies and services is called "Trustpilot" speaks volumes.

  • Reputational trust: I guess everyone has a favorite brand. For example, I always use Brooks shoes for running and buy their products blindly because I trust them, even though I have never tried that specific item. Or if we like a director, we rush to see his or her latest movie even before reading the reviews.

The review of the company Trustpilot - with a score of 4.2 (great) - on the website
The review of the Trustpilot company on the website

See you next week

With this first exploration, which will continue next week, we can conclude that trust is an incredible driving force, an invisible thread that connects people, entities, and even objects in the tangled web of our lives. Without trust, interpersonal relationships suffer and, as a result, the effectiveness of leadership is challenged.

We can venture to say that trust is the oil that lubricates the machine of leadership and human interaction.

Trust is dynamic; it is always in motion. It increases, decreases, and sometimes breaks down, but the beauty is that it can also be repaired.

Next week, we will explore how to build and maintain trust, while also taking a look at the pitfalls that can block the birth and growth of a relationship based on trust.

If we want to be "masters of the sea" in our professional and personal lives, trust is the anchor that holds us steady, the wind that swells our sails, and the North Star that guides our course.

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