[Opinion] The Confusion of Trust

People sometimes say (or think) in an interaction “I don’t trust you.”

And then they go and order a book, a magazine, a car, or even a living space (hotel room) online without much of a thought about who is on the other end of the transaction.

Transactional trust is at the core of most messaging and is the vehicle for the virus of conflicts when the transaction is proven to be not worthwhile, too expensive, or requiring too much emotional involvement.

Transactional trust is what organizational leaders use to ensure that their expectations (and sometimes ours) get met, and the organization moves forward a smoothly as possible. When the trust breaks down however, their expectations (and ours) around sacrifice, loyalty, and expectation shift. And it’s usually a long way back to the original formulation once it’s gone.

In most conflicts, there is a loss of transactional trust, and the message that conflict participants want to send to each other is drowned out by their internal voices, clanging along, declaring quite loudly “I don’t trust you.”

And if the most important thing is sending a message, what do you do when no one is using the same medium that you are, in order to hear the message, you want to send in the first place?

This is the trouble that leads to polarization in modern communications, as well as increases in conflict. It’s not about everybody speaking the same language, it’s about everybody communicating using different mediums.

And when my medium of choice for delivering (or receiving) a message of choice, is not your medium of choice for receiving (or delivering) a message you think that I need to hear, then conflicts, confusion, and escalation are bound to increase, not decrease.

This real confusion around medium, message, and transactional trust has three potential outcomes:

  • The person sending the message and the person receiving it on the other end now have the option to turn off the other person completely and will exercise the option when the interaction becomes uncomfortable or too demanding, because the bar of trust is way higher and the social penalty for not trusting is way lower.
  • Both people in the conflict are now comfortable in turning each other off, and are increasingly ensconced inside medium based echo chambers where the same message reverberates from the “tribe” that already supported their initial decision to disengage.
  • Immoral, unethical, and incompetent “bad” actors now don’t have to encourage followers to seek resolution, collaboration, or even speak a common language. Instead, all they have to do is the easy work of reaffirming fear based transactions that grow trust between them and their “tribe,” trapped in echo chambers of their own making.

The irrationality of our decision-making process served us well in smaller communities, but as interactions that have meaning and mattering begin to scale to global levels, the frictions between our innate irrationality and our need for the security of transactional trust, will only increase.

H/T Seth Godin.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
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