Redefining Trust

One of the more interesting things I learned in going to law school and working in a law office was the fact that the “truth” could be subjective.  While we all like to think there are absolute truths or facts, often the way these facts are presented depends a lot on your individual point of view.

For example, depending on where you are in a room, your viewing angle, your knowledge of the parties, etc. will all affect how you perceive and judge any social situation.  If I see two people talking, their body language informs others about the conversation as much as the words.  If someone is saying the right things, but is also shaking their head “no” at the same time, you have to begin to doubt their sincerity- their body is giving them away.  The objective reality of the words and sentences does not match the visual cues that indicate this person has no intention of doing what they say they will, based on their body language.  This can ultimately effect business negotiations, perceptions, and ultimately, the willingness to trust each other.

Learning that Truth and Facts are Subjective

While in law school, I worked part time for a firm that did a lot of tort work.  We would have clients keep pain journals, to get a sense of how their injuries were affecting their daily lives.  Some folks would have journals that were concentrating on every twinge or perceived  inconvenience, knowing that the bigger their injuries appeared, the more their settlement might be.  But then we would have other clients with more severe injuries that seemed to be less affected and less concerned with their injuries, and just were working hard to get on with their every day lives.  Their injury did not become their life, it was an inconvenience.  But because their injury was not causing them the same amount of emotional hardship (basically because they were less whiney) their case would also be worth less money in the end.  As an attorney, this difference always made me more suspicious and less trusting of clients. There were those who were looking at their injury as a version of winning a lottery, and there were those who were just looking to get their bills and inconvenience compensated and wanted to move on with things that were more important.

I received a big wake-up call that spoke both to the subjectiveness of pain between individuals, looking at underlying motivations of people seeking our help, along with the concept of resilience and how that effected the ultimate outcome for the client.  I could no longer just judge a book by its cover, but I had to look deeper into what was happening in a client’s life, to get at a deeper truth about what they wanted and why.  In the end, understanding a client’s true motivations and needs helps you do your job better, but it also shows how tangled up emotions get into what a client really “deserves” and differentiating “needs” and “wants”.

Trust and Friendship in Social Media

In social media, we have a lot of fluid definitions of things like friendship and trust.  We still have a very human need to have relationships with others and invest in them our feelings, opinions and more.   But everyone still has their own axe to grind, and their own motivations in both keeping and revealing the trusts you place with them, making it trickier when deciding who to trust and who not to.

Friends can be people we think we might like to know, or people we’ve know since childhood.  Saying someone is a friend now is a lot more subjective and situation-dependent than before social media made everyone your friend, fan or follower. Trust is equally tricky.  In a day and age when people often carry Non-disclosure agreements around in their computer case, just in case they want to have a chat with someone, what is happening to the old fashioned sense of being trustworthy?

We carry a higher risk ratio with trust and friendship these days, where a cautious and graduated approach may be best.  You can trust someone with small things, and over time, the relationship may grow to the point where you can trust them with more important things. Even then, we run the risk of getting burned and deciding what to do afterwards.  In the end, I try to trust everyone until they prove themselves untrustworthy, including my clients, but I know I am more skeptical and less blindly accepting of the “truth as told by _______” than I have been in the past.

Trust will always be a two way street.  But like facts,the factors that go into trust and the “truth” are forever dependent on an individual’s point of view.  There may not be as many objective facts as before- heck, people even question long and repetitively proven scientific principals, so what is an absolute truth these days?  I’m not sure I know.  But I know that I do believe in the general goodness and good intentions of most people, especially those I consider my friends, and that will have to be good enough for me.

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