Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
 
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit

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Tools/Skills for Life: The Core Playing Field

TRUST—Practical Maps and Strategies to Wisely Invest Your Trust

Who is Trustworthy and Who is Untrustworthy?

© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few;
and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence."
—George Washington (Letter, 1783)

"He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf,
a horse's health, a boy's love or a whore's oath."
—William Shakespeare (from King Lear)

"Fide, sed cui vide." ("Trust, but take care in whom")
—Author Unknown

Just who is Trustworthy and Who is Untrustworthy?

Is it possible for anyone to be too trusting, loving, kind, gracious, grateful, forgiving, compassionate or any other uplifting behavior or personality attribute? I'm reminded of a bestseller some years back that referred to loving too much. The title was simultaneously both ingratiating and irresponsible. It implied that people who deeply love are somehow victims of a world ever ready to take advantage of them, while bearing no responsibility for their blind spots and life challenges. No one can trust, love, forgive or express any healthy personality attribute too much. What someone can do is misplace and misuse that personality characteristic.

It is a strongly suspicion that a significant portion of harm that occurs on this planet, particularly in interpersonal interactions, is associated with misplaced trust. What it means to misplace your trust is literally to place your trust in someone, something, or some environment that is inappropriate, unworthy and undeserving of it. Before taking a closer look at key combinations of trustful and mistrustful people interactions, several maps on trustworthiness are instructive. These utilize empirical research findings, clinical observations of experts on lying 1 along with clinical experience.


A MAP OF CONCRETE BEHAVIORS FOR
 
WHO'S TRUSTWORTHY
PEOPLE WORTHY OF MY TRUST
(TRUSTWORTHY)
 
 WHO'S UNTRUSTWORTHY
PEOPLE UNWORTHY OF MY TRUST
(UNTRUSTWORTHY)
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
1. Good, steady eye contact; normal pupils, blinking and swallowing
 
 1. Shifty, averted eyes; pupils widen; frequent blinking and swallowing
 
2. Normal pitch and speed of speaking; few speech errors, pauses or slips
 
 2. High pitch; slower/faster speaking; speech errors, pauses and slips
 
3. Broad smiles: eyes and mouth match
 
 3. Forced smiles: eyes and mouth do not match in smiling
 
4. Normal hand movements; little touching of face; steady posture
 
 4. Fewer hand movements, more face touching; shifts posture a lot
 
5. Normal facial color
 
 5. Facial reddening or blanching
 
6. Normal breathing and perspiration
 
 6. Fast/shallow breathing; sweating
 
7. Moves smoothly, at own pace;
 
 7. Moves erratically; nervous habits
 
8. In control and thinks before acting; deliberative and spontaneous actions
 
 8. Not in control; doesn't think before acting; actions highly impulsive
 
9. Makes more positive, relevant, and close-to-the-evidence statements; verbally responsive and offers more personally relevant information
 
 9. Makes more negative, irrelevant, and over generalized statements; fewer words in answer to questions and less personally relevant information
 
10. Offers factual, realistic and reasonable support for opinions; few speech errors
 
 10. Uses persuasion and manipulation for opinions; more speech errors
 
11. Contributing actions; makes appointments or reschedules; speaks in an unbroken, normal pace
 
 11. Hedonistic and selfish actions; misses appointments; speech has hesitations and both slower and longer
 
12. Avoids rationalizations, excuses, cop-outs or other defenses; directly and responsibly shares feelings and thoughts
 
 12. Uses rationalizations, excuses, cop-outs and other defenses; indirectly and irresponsibly stuffs or dumps feelings and thoughts.
 
13. Does act or doesn't act, usually with constructive results; usually does not mind-read, heart-read or soul-read someone else 13. Tries, struggles and efforts, with destructive results; does mind-read, heart-read or soul-read someone else
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
CRITICAL CONCRETE BEHAVIORS
 
I. Keeps word and commitments repeatedly in actions (Honest)
 
 I. Breaks word and commitments repeatedly in actions (Dishonest)
 
II. Solid, stable, ordered and disciplined words and actions (Stalwart)
 
 II. Unstable, disordered and undisciplined words and actions (Chaotic)
 
III. Words, actions, body language and tone of voice communicate the same message (Congruent)
 
 III. Words, actions, body language and tone of voice all communicate different and conflicting messages (Conflicted)
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

While it is unlikely that any object of your attention will have the entire list, the more pronounced in number and severity, the more credible the finding. It is possible, yet quite unlikely in my experience, that the object of your inquiry can be trustworthy without having a large number of these thirteen concrete behaviors. However, it has been my experience that no person, setting, organization or environment can be trustworthy without demonstrating the three critical items listed above. The very same points can be made of the untrustworthy side of the map. Gavin De Becker's The Gift of Fear 2 and David J. Lieberman's Never be Lied to Again 3 are critical resources to further enhance your recognition of untrustworthy people.

Interestingly, the thirteen general concrete behaviors in addition to these three critical items for being trustworthy and untrustworthy are simply different views in on the very same phenomena. This is much like John Godfrey Saxe's poem "The Blind Men and the Elephant" in depicting six blind men's extremely different experiences and perceptions of an elephant.

It's both useful and prudent to have numerous maps of the terrain of trust. Here's a second reality map for differentiating the trustworthy from the untrustworthy using personality characteristics. The same method as with the first reality map can be thoroughly applied to this second reality map. The three critical items once again are the most important to memorize, know and universally use on a consistent basis.


A MAP OF PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS OF

WHO IS TRUSTWORTHY
PEOPLE WORTHY OF MY TRUST
(TRUSTWORTHY)

 
 WHO IS UNTRUSTWORTHY
PEOPLE UNWORTHY OF MY TRUST
(UNTRUSTWORTHY)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
1. Relaxed, calm and loving
 
 1. Nervous, distressed and fearful
 
2. Emotionally expressive; feels self-worthy and comfortable
 
 2. Squelched expressions; feels sad, guilty, embarrassed or shameful
 
3. Rational and reasonable; realistic and well grounded in working with reality on its terms
 
 3. Irrational and unreasonable; unrealistic, ungrounded and often living in a fantasy
 
4. Flexible and open-minded; actively adaptive making changes; teachable and coachable
 
 4. Inflexible, rigid, closed-minded; actively resists adaptive changes; unteachable and uncoachable
 
5. Willing to grow, help, support and be supportable by others
 
 5. Unwilling to grow, help, support or be supportable by others
 
6. Available in the present to be in communication and relationship
 
 6. Unavailable in the present to be incommunication and relationship
 
7. Caring, considerate and sensitive
 
 7. Uncaring, inconsiderate and insensitive
 
8. Thankful, courteous and grateful
 
 8. Thankless, discourteous and ungrateful
 
9. Faithful and reverent
 
 9. Faithless and irreverent
 
10. Approachable and not defensive
 
 10. Unapproachable and defensive
 
11. Forgiving and don't carry grudges
 
 11. Unforgiving and carry grudges
 
12. Predictable over important matters
 
 12. Unpredictable over important matters
 
13. Secure in knowing their strengths challenges and limits
 
 13. Insecure in not knowing their strengths, challenges and limits
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
CRITICAL PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS 4
 
I. Honest, straight forward and consistently expresses integrity (Predictable)
 
 I. Dishonest, devious, volatile and lacks consistent expression of integrity (Unpredictable)
 
II. High trusting, reliable, cooperative, well-meaning and responsible (Dependable)
 
 II. Low trusting, unreliable, and uncooperative, not well-meaning and irresponsible (Undependable)
 
III. Accepting, likeable, non-judgmental, non-manipulativeand secure caring about the the future of the relationship (Faith and attachment)
 
 III. Unaccepting, denying, not likeable, judgmental, manipulative and lacks secure caring about future of the relationship (Lacks faith and attachment)
 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Examining this listing of personality characteristics, it is clear that having good and bad character integrally defines who is trustworthy and who isn't. Possessing honesty, a conscience in being able to discern right from wrong and following through in action is central to being worthy of trust and embodying integrity. Author Stephen L. Carter 5 poignantly distinguishes honesty from integrity: "Certainly the racist is being honest-he is telling what he actually does think-but his honesty does not add up to integrity."

Here is a five-step sequence to astutely apply these two reality maps:

  1. Be very familiar with both maps and particularly the 6 critical items for being trustworthy or untrustworthy;
     
  2. Pause and observe with sensitivity the person, organization or environment in question;
     
  3. Gain enough relevant information to make a determination about the dimension of trustworthiness;
     
  4. See what fits for the object of inquiry after reviewing both maps; and
     
  5. Make a solid judgment or determination about trustworthiness and in what specific areas this applies.

As in all sales, any potential customer begins as a suspect. Only after finding out whether the person is a qualified buyer does this person graduate to becoming a prospect. Similarly, each person, organization and environment is worth perusing to gain enough information to use across the whole constellation of 26 key items and the 6 critical ones.

Since any map is an approximation to some degree, so is this one. My suggestion is to use the cutoff point of 85% for the key items and critical ones. In other words, if that person, organization or environment meets the criteria using these two maps 85% or better, it is quite probable that the object in question qualifies as either trustworthy or untrustworthy. I figure that saints, that are in very short supply, are in the low 90's and only God is at 100%. Certainly there are degrees of trustworthiness and untrustworthiness, especially when that person, setting, organization or environment is in a major transition or change.

These two reality maps serve as a crosscheck on this dimension of trustworthiness. If anything it's very helpful, reassuring and confidence building to over-determine this crucial distinction. Over-learning the six critical concrete behaviors and personality characteristics will serve anyone in numerous dimensions of living a safe, protective and satisfying life.

To make these two critical maps your own, here are two simple, yet powerful, worksheets or personalized charts you can choose to complete. Some people might object that to place people into categories is quite judgmental and even shows a holier than thou, arrogant attitude. I don't believe this is the case. If you bring the clean motive to gain clarity about people in your life and yourself, then you can make thoughtful judgments based on practical knowledge-the height of wisdom in investing your trust.

The first personalized chart is to take an ordinary piece of blank paper, draw a vertical line down the center of it as well as a horizontal line across the paper about three inches from the bottom edge. Label the top left TRUSTWORTHY, the top right UNTRUSTWORTHY and the center bottom below the line SUSPECTS. Your first personalized chart consists of honestly placing the names of every person you know in the present or have known in the past in their fitting place. Remember suspects are people you lack sufficient information to qualify in either of the major categories.

You can further refine this chart to account for mid-range trustworthiness and untrustworthiness by placing in parenthesis after the person's name the specific areas each person is trustworthy or untrustworthy, such as in keeping a confidence, with money obligations, job integrity, keeping a date, or punctuality. These people that are trustworthy in selected areas you could call PROSPECTS for full trustworthiness across the board over time. If the person is trustworthy or untrustworthy across the board, then you can skip parenthesis and place them toward the top of the major columns.

A second personalized chart uses the same paper as designed above, but with a twist. This time, you mark percentages from 100% on the top left edge down by 10% incremental steps to 90%, 80% and so on to 0% just above SUSPECTS and draw a light line horizontally across the paper. You can designate some range, say from 50% to 85%, mid-range trustworthiness and label this group PROSPECTS. Again, place people you know or have known where they belong on each side of the chart. These two personalized charts are really not about pigeon-holing or labeling people so much as being invaluable tools in identifying who is who in your life, past, present and the unfolding present, across the dimension of who is trustworthy and who isn't.

Looking at the combinations of trusting and mistrusting people provides an immediately useful overview of what consequences can be expected in each pairing. In trustful-trustful interactions, that is, when a person who brings their trust with them interacts with another person who brings their trust with them and both are trustworthy, few if any problems arise. This is understandable and relatively predictable.

Lawrence LeShan in his book How to Meditate 6 mentioned conferring with philosopher Jacob Needleman in regard to an older sense of the word "understand." It means to "stand under," that is to comprehend and perceive something by being apart or participating in it as a organic, complete process. In like manner, when a trustful person finds and interacts with a fellow trustful person, whether recognized and registered as such or not, there would appear to be just such a standing under a similar experience. It's akin to speaking the same language. So a trustful person relating to another trustful person is as fitting, belonging and harmonious as hands slipping into form-fitting, correctly sized gloves.

As uncommon as problems arise in such trustful-trustful interactions, by the very nature of such individuals and their lived principles, when breakdowns in constructive living occur they stay in close and immediate communication. For illustration, having given one's word to help another move and the helper's vehicle stops running, they get into contact by telephone as soon as possible to alert the moving party that they will be delayed or unable to fulfill their commitment, usually with sincere apologies for the inconvenience. Thus, a logistical problem that could happen with anybody gets honestly handled in a timely and straight forward manner, instead of it becoming a deceitful, irresponsible action.


 
George Demont Otis     When Fall Meets Winter
 

Mistrustful-mistrustful interactions are not a pretty picture, as you might well expect. One possibility is that neither will invest much, if anything, in the other out of their mutual mistrust, and this would result in keeping everything quite superficial and uncommitted. Another possibility is that each reinforces their mutual suspiciousness and mistrust, thereby deepening and justifying being low trusters.

Popular society would offer the possibility of there being "honor among thieves" when a mistrustful or low trusting person meets another. If both parties are not too interested in investing trust, or worthy of it either, then perhaps a modicum of trust can be placed in their mutual mistrust and untrustworthiness. I suspect that the minimal trust instilled would not last long and would tend to fall apart since there is so little to support it. As the expression 'Ignorance is bliss' is an outlandish untruth, for surely ignorance is a major opening for all forms of injury and continuing harm, so "honor among thieves" is most likely to be an oxymoron and equally false.

The odds-on possibility for this interaction is a mutual gossiping, scamming, cheating, lying and using with all the expected fallout. This would include abused reactions, mutual blaming, fault finding and accusations, manipulations and intimidation, in addition to gross betrayal, double crossing, illegal activities, aggression and violence. Mistrustful—mistrustful interactions are a dysfunctional and often destructive mess for all concerned as well as the rest of us and our planet given fallout. Adapting Woody Allen's distinction that "the lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won't get much sleep," I propose a corollary: "the lion can lie down with the calf or the calf can lie down with the lion, but it won't be good for the calf!"

It is trustful-untrustful interactions that are of most interest since it is precisely here that trusting, trustworthy individuals are vulnerable to be misused, abused and taken for a painful ride. Typically only pain, ruin, abuse, loss, misery and suffering are the outcomes of a trustful/ trustworthy individual interacting with a mistrustful/untrustworthy individual. What else would anyone expect? At the very least such interactions are often fraught with misunderstandings since the two people are speaking such different value, principle, attitude and behavior languages. Possibly the mistrustful person perceives the trustful person as a dupe, mark, pigeon or sitting duck just waiting to be taken. Paradoxically and ironically, the power for good appears rather weak against the false power for bad.

Most probably the trustful person has a huge blind spot and simply doesn't see, or identify, or recognize the low truster and untrustworthy person, nor the negative, destructive consequences coming from interacting with such people. How does this come to be? My strong suspicion is that the trustful and usually trustworthy individual makes the false assumption or holds a false hope that because he or she is playing with a full deck, so to speak, so is everyone else. The honest, reality-based and self-protective question, "Are you trustworthy or not?," doesn't seem to arise at all! Nor would it for just about anyone, given this assumption. It's as if the person had simply decided to pre-judge others as, at the very least, trustworthy.

It is only by bravely and persistently marshalling such guts will the lambs of the world avoid being lunch. They can then engage in the business of life in finding their own place of belonging, while living uneasily with the lions and other predators. Harmony or harm, being lunch or finding lunch, life or death is often just what is at stake in most of nature, even in most interactions of human creatures. Caveat Emptor—let the buyer beware! We can now begin building your sanctuary of safety and successful relationships. This is not a retreat-rather a movement forward. We can now apply all of these maps with four realistic strategies for wisely investing your trust.

References

1. Paul Ekman, Telling Lies. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1985; Charles V. Ford, Lies! Lies!! Lies!!!: The Psychology of Deceit. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1996, pages 201-203; Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1997; David J. Lieberman, Never Be Lied To Again. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

2. Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1997.

3. David J. Lieberman, Never Be Lied To Again. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

4. John K. Rempel, John G. Holmes, and Mark P. Zanna, "Trust in Close Relationships," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49 (1), 1985, pages 95-112. (showed empirical support for a model of trust in close relationships based on the three components of predictability, dependability and faith); John G. Holmes, and John K. Rempel, "Trust in Close Relationships." In Clyde Hendrick (Ed.), Review of Personality and Social Psychology: Close Relationships, London: Sage Publications, 1989, pages 187-220, Reference to 191.

5. Stephen L. Carter, Integrity. New York: Basic Books / HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1996, page 53.

6. Lawrence LeShan, How To Meditate. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1974, pages 219-220.


Four Strategies to Invest Trust Wisely

Tis an office of more trust to shave a man's beard than to saddle a horse.
—Miguel De Cervantes (from Don Quixote)

The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.
—Henry Lewis Stimson
(from "The Bomb and the Opportunity", Harper's Magazine, March, 1946)
 

Four highly realistic and protective strategies are proposed for wisely investing your trust. To set the groundwork for this, let's look at the incidence of untrustworthy and trustworthy people, the possibility to transform and transcend being untrustworthy, a revealing story about investing trust and several research implications for investing trust.

First, just how commonplace are untrustworthy people? Brace yourself for the news-they are in the large majority, at least if lying is any index. The most thorough survey I'm aware of on the incidence of lying was conducted by James Patterson and Peter Kim and published in their book The Day American Told the Truth. 1 These researchers took their main survey sample from a randomly drawn sample of 2,000 adult Americans in 50 locations to have high geographic representation. The margin of error (statistical significance) for the univariate statistics they present is 2.2% at a publishable 95% confidence level.
 


George Demont Otis     The Vista 2
 

These authors found that 91% of Americans engage in conscious, premeditated lies regularly and two out of three believe there is nothing wrong about telling a lie! 36% of Americans confess to telling serious falsehoods, such as lies that have legal consequences, hurt people, violate a trust or are totally self-serving. 86% lie regularly to their parents, 75% to friends, 73% to siblings and lovers, 69% to spouses and 61% to their bosses. 2

Lest you think these figures are an anomaly, confirmation is easily available. Leonard Saxe, a Public Interest award-winning Brandeis University professor and applied social researcher in psychology, describes the ubiquity of lying and calls for the development of a psychology of lying. 3 Psychiatrist Charles V. Ford offers substantial empirical support that "everybody lies" in the realms of dating and the workplace as well as with advertisers, politicians, physicians, and scientists. 4 Shusterman and Saxe explored whether under- graduate students had ever lied to their partners and found that more than 85% admitted that they had lied, mainly over being deceptive about another relationship. 5 A national survey of over 2,000 secretaries in the U.S. and Canada reported that 85% admit they tell lies on the telephone. 6

Recent research on lying by Bella De Paulo and her colleagues found most people lie once or twice a day. Both women and men lie in approximately a fifth of their daily interactions that last 10 minutes or longer. Thus, over the period of a week, they deceive about 30% of the people they interact with on a one-to-one basis. Students admitted to lying an average of twice a day, while community members lied half as often. 7

Interestingly, while both genders lie with equal frequency, men are more likely to tell self-aggrandizing lies, women more commonly tell altruistic lies out of loyalty and sparing another person's feelings. Possibly women tell lies to foster intimacy and supportiveness in their relations with others. More than 70% of liars would tell their lies again since they did not regard their lies as serious and didn't plan them much or worry about being caught. 8 Patterson and Kim provided further support in reported that two in every three Americans believe that there is nothing wrong with lying. 9

In regard to what the lies concern, Patterson and Kim found that 90% of Americans say that they have told harmless lies 81% about true feelings, 43% about income, 42% about accomplishments, 40% about sex life, 31% about age and 23% about education. DePaulo and her colleagues found that 10% were exaggerations, while 60% were outright deceptions. 10 The remainder were subtle lies, often involving omission. About 1 in 7 instances of lying was discovered, as the liars could best determine. 11 DePaulo has mentioned some preliminary findings that the majority of serious lies that involve deep betrayals of trust occur between people in intimate relationships. 12

Researchers Kashy and DePaulo offer a picture of who lies. Frequent liars tend to be quite manipulative and Machiavellian, not to mention that they see themselves as more successful liars than others. They are socially adroit and concerned with the impression they make on others. Their view of lying is that it is condemned publically yet very widely practiced privately and is an everyday social interaction process: "People tell lies to accomplish the most basic social interaction goals, such as influencing others, managing impressions, and providing reassurance and support." 13

My estimate is that between 5% to 10%—1 out of 10 to 1 out of 20 people you meet on the average—of the American population is trustworthy across the board of living, using 85% as the cut-off standard. I estimate that the figure may go up to 25% to 50% or more for this population being trustworthy in selected areas, that is, mid-range trustworthiness. I'd be thrilled to find that I'm totally incorrect about both figures, yet life experience, intuition and data tells me it is not.

This brings us to the question: can people who have been untrustworthy become trustworthy and vice versa? Without solid research data I speculate that it is quite uncommon for an untrustworthy person to progressively become trustworthy. Even at that, it would take an event or series of events that would shake that individual down to their core, something on the order of a near-death experience, multiple heart attacks or strokes, or coming face-to-face with themselves and God. Given the layers of defense that are likely to be in place, nothing less than a jolting experience that left you shaken to your toenails would have any chance of breaking through. Even then, it would take hard, disciplined daily work, probably with an excellent teacher, therapist, coach, mentor or wise guide, over an extended period of time to work this miraculous transformation.

In regard to the possibility of a trustworthy individual becoming untrustworthy, I suggest the odds of this occurring are realistically quite small. I think it would be excruciatingly difficult and go so against the grain of personality structure for someone who expressed honesty and integrity to behave in a distrusting and untrustworthy manner. Research results support trustworthy people tending to wash away and overlook times, situations and people they had misplaced their trust in, and thereafter trusting again and again anyway. 14
 


George Demont Otis     Winter Evening
 

As the advertisement for the shark movie Jaws says, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. . . ," so it is exceedingly intelligent to look and look again before you leap into the waters of trust with some people. Not all that glitters is gold-some is fool's gold!

How do you go about making decisions about trusting another? In making decisions or judgments, there are four possibilities: (1) true positive (people who appear to be trustworthy and, in fact, are); (2) true negative (people who appear to be untrustworthy and, in fact, are); (3) false positive (people who appear to be trustworthy and, in fact, are not); and (4) false negative (people who appear to be untrustworthy and, in fact, are not). Our aim with this decision matrix is to maximize the possibility of the first two categories, while minimizing the possibility of the latter two categories.

High trusters are quite vulnerable to making false positive errors, that is, attributing trustworthiness to a person when this is false in reality. Rotter explains:

"...the high truster is no less capable of determining who should be trusted and who should not be trusted, although in novel situations he or she may be more likely to trust others than is the low truster. It may be true that the high truster is fooled more often by crooks, but the low truster is probably fooled equally often by distrusting honest people, thereby forfeiting the benefits that trusting others might bring." 15

Thus, high trusters are more willing and likely to respect the rights of others and even give them second chances, whether they get burned in this interaction or not. Samuel Johnson once said, "It's happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust."

Low trusters are highly vulnerable to the decision error of false negatives—to think someone is untrustworthy, when this is false in reality. Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.) in Prometheus Bound (line 226) understood this: "For somehow this is tyranny's disease, to trust no friends." Because untrustworthy people often lie, George Bernard Shaw had them squarely pegged: "The liar's punishment...is that he cannot believe anyone else."

The problem of false negatives is a most difficult one. Take the examples of an innocent person falsely accused or convicted of a crime and the normal-functioning person falsely accused of mental illness or disability. It has been my repeated observation and experience that our society, and especially our criminal justice and mental health systems, has little if any acceptance, structure or procedures for handling false negatives. This creates great difficulty in extricating innocent and normal-functioning people from "the system" once they are enmeshed inside the belly of the beast.

One study offers support for high trusters permitting mistakes and still trusting so long as the mistake is acknowledged and an apology offered. Moreover, even when shown straight-forward evidence of having been tricked, high trusters will continue to give trust! 16 Juliette Binoche, the French movie star who a few years ago won the Academy award for best actress in The English Patient, provides a contemporary example of one who trusts. She was reported as saying, "That's all you can do when you work in film-trust. Everything is out of your hands, which is rather terrifying...You must trust. And even if you find that trust was misplaced, you wipe it away and trust again." 17

Is this hypothesized blindspot for high trusters a variation of wearing rose-colored glasses? Very possibly. This approach may also be most efficacious. Julian Rotter admits to aiming to be more trusting by behaving as if he trusted an individual even though he clearly doesn't, assuming he had no reason to distrust the person. He finds that people typically prove to be worthy of this "pretended trust." 18 When you bet on someone, they often rise to that level.

"To think for oneself, to find out what is true and stand by it, without being influenced, whatever life my bring of misery or happiness-that is what builds character."
—Jiddu Krishnamurti in Think of These Things

*

Here's a true anecdote I've heard from several people over the years of how a father went about teaching his son about trust. I've taken the liberty to transform and transcend it into a healing encounter, instead of a hurtful betrayal of trust in the guise of offering a protection:

At first a man related how his hurt and angry grandfather had put his father, then an 8-year-old boy, on top of the refrigerator. Grandfather told his son to jump, and he would catch him. After many tears and fears, the boy did jump, but the grandfather did not catch him, bellowing, "TRUST NO ONE!" The present day son interrupted, "How very mean and cruel!" His father wept and agreed saying, "My father told me about this and he said he would never do such a thing." The boy knew he could trust his honest, promise-keeping father. So he climbed up on the refrigerator and said, "Catch me!" The father did and said, "Trust only those that have earned your honest trust, respect, love and good will, son." The boy hugged and kissed him for a long time. 

I have noticed over and over again that high trusters tend to invest their trust at 100% in people they have little if any information or background on, then end up being hurt, disappointed and angered when those people don't follow through. It's like high trusters think, "Because I'm playing with a full deck in life, they must be also." Incorrect and inaccurate! If you think of every percentage point as a stair, then it's akin to falling down at least 10 to 15 stairs even with the most trustworthy of souls, and scores more with most others! If you have ever had the misfortune of falling down stairs, then you know this is a highly hazardous activity, one in which you could easily break your bones and even meet your death. Obviously this isn't a very helpful approach, yet it is extremely common.
 


George Demont Otis     The Surf

It is essential to have solid, workable strategies to intelligently invest trust. Here are four alternative strategies, ranging from liberal to moderate to conservative to ultra-conservative, that progressively protect you better and better. Paradoxically, each strategy offers your "pretended trust" while wisely investing your trust:

The Liberal Strategy: You pretend the person in question is trustworthy and treat them in this fashion. At the same time you start them at 0% and use the five-step approach in applying the two trustworthy-untrustworthy maps of concrete behaviors and personality characteristics. As the person rises on being worthy of trust, you also rise on investing the exact same amount of trust in them, matching the percentage he or she has earned.

The Moderate Strategy: Once again you pretend the person is trustworthy and interact with them in this way. Again you start them at 0% and use the five-step approach with the two maps. As the person rises on being deserving of your trust, you invest half of what the person has earned. At 85% overall or in selected areas, you match them in your trust investment.

The Conservative Strategy: Pretending the person is trustworthy, you show this in your behavior toward them. Again you begin them at 0% and use the five-step approach with both maps. As the person rises you invest nothing until they hit a specific threshold, say 50% or 60%, and then you invest half of the trust that person has earned. When the criterion of 85% is met overall or in selected areas, you match them in what you invest.

The Ultra-Conservative Strategy: You pretend the person is trustworthy and demonstrate this in your interactions with them. Again you commence with the person at 0% and employ the five-step approach with the maps. As the person rises you invest nothing until the criterion of 85% is met overall or in selected areas, then you match their demonstrated trustworthiness with your own trust investment in them.

Each strategy can have its place in your repertoire of trust investment. Which to use, with which person, is your choice. Some people would feel most comfortable using one strategy most of the time given their personality make-up and approach to life. Others would be more comfortable in using greater flexibility in employing different strategy at different times. Flexible high trusters can profitably check not only with the evidence on the maps of trustworthy-untrustworthy, but additionally with their feelings, intuition and gut as well as with God. Depending on this feedback, they can take the level of risk it makes reasonable, emotional, intuitive and spiritual sense to take.

The winds of change are beating at the windowsill once again. Future forecaster and author Alvin Toffler with his wife Heidi see the advent of a new third super civilization threatening the eight to ten millennia old agrarian and the two to three century old industrial super civilizations-the high speed information, communication super civilization. 19 The internet/worldwide web is one of its playing fields and this is impacting trust. The anonymity of "chat rooms" has been the impetus for both marriages and criminal activity, most likely related to flying blind in regard to the dimension of trust.

It's ironic that in one of the most anonymous, non-personal mediums, two popular sites, eBay and Amazon, have devised an ingenious means to measure interpersonal trust and hold individuals most personally accountable for their actions. Pioneering auction site eBay, along with numerous others since like Amazon, have a built-in structure for buyers and sellers to know each other's track records in regard to buy and sell transactions using a numerical rating along with subjective comments. In this way potential participants have the opportunity to "look before they leap" into the auction swimming pool with any specific buyer or seller. Given the sheer number of people who have used this service and the high ratings earned by myriad numbers, it is reassuring to know that trustworthy individuals are alive and well, and finding each other! While hardly foolproof with such ratings being voluntary and people's hesitancy to give negative feedback, it's a welcome innovation that bears translation into all of life.

References

1. James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth. New York: Plume/Penguin Books USA Inc., 1991.

2. James Patterson and Peter Kim, 1991, pages 45-48, ibid.

3. Leonard Saxe, "Lying: Thoughts of an Applied Social Psychologist," American Psychologist, 46 (4), April, 1991, pages 409-415.

4. Charles V. Ford, Lies! Lies!! Lies!!!: The Psychology of Deceit. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1996, pages 4-18.

5. G. Shusterman, and L. Saxe, Deception in Romantic Relationships, Unpublished manuscript, Brandeis University, 1990.

6. Reported in Los Angeles Times, Life and Style Section, March 10, 1998, page E-2.

7. Bella M. De Paulo, Deborah A. Kashy, Susan E. Kirkendol, Melissa M. Wyer, and Jennifer A. Epstein, "Lying in Everyday Life," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70 (5), 1996, 979-995.

8. Bella M. De Paulo, et al., 1996, ibid.

9. James Patterson and Peter Kim, 1991, ibid.

10. James Patterson and Peter Kim, 1991, ibid.

11. Bella M. De Paulo, et al., 1996, ibid.

12. Reported in Allison Kornet, "The Truth about Lying," Psychology Today, 30 (3), May/June 1997, pages 53-57/ Reference: pages 54-55.

13. Deborah A. Kashy, and Bella M. DePaulo, "Who Lies?," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70 (5), pages 1037-1051, quote: page 1037.

14. Julian B. Rotter, "Interpersonal Trust, Trustworthiness and Gullibility," American Psychologist, 35 (1), January, 1980.

15. Julian B. Rotter, 1980, ibid., page 6,

16. M. D. Roberts, The Persistence of Interpersonal Trust, Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of Connecticut, 1967.

17. Juliette Binoche quote reported in column by Liz Smith, Los Angeles Times, Calendar Section, July 12, 1999, page F-2.

18. Julian B. Rotter, "Trust and Gullibility," Psychology Today, 25, December, 1992, pages 75-80.

19. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, "Supercivilization and Its Discontents," Civilization, February/March, 2000, pages 52, 54.
 


George Demont Otis     Sunset Golden Gate
 

© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
 
 


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