Esther Derby has a good post this morning about how trust is embedded in a context. She writes, “The sort of trust that you need for a productive working relationship is different from the trust you need for a healthy marriage.” She gives some good examples of what trust means on a work team.
I believe trust always comes down to this: I believe that you’re not going to do me harm. What kind of harm depends on the context in which we have a relationship. On a work team with me, you can harm me by not doing your work or by complaining about me behind my back, as Esther describes.
My belief that you’re not going to do me harm comes from the accumulation of everything I know and have experienced of you. Everything that happens in our relationship either builds or undermines trust. Nothing is neutral.
Because of that, one of the best ways to build trust in a relationship is to simply be aware of it. A good tool I’ve found for that is cultural anthropologist Marvin Mayers’s prior question of trust (or PQT for short): “Is what I’m doing, thinking, or saying building trust or undermining trust?” Of course, you can never be sure what effect a given action will have on trust—people aren’t that predictable. But asking the PQT in your head before acting can point you in the right direction.