Why Not? Don’t you trust me?
Whether you’ve asked the question or someone else has asked it of you, most of us are well acquainted with this question. It’s the classic hail mary of guilt. It’s what you do when you have other options so I guess I’ll punt and appeal to their sense of.
On the surface it’s an innocent and straightforward question. So why do people use it — why does it work? Why after centuries of human speech have we not developed a more compelling argument than an appeal to guilt?
It works because it plays off of the common misconception that there are only two possible options (to either trust or not to trust) and that these options are mutually exclusive.
That is where we err.
Trust is multi-faceted. Between trusting and distrusting lies a vast spectrum of grey. A simple analysis of trust uncovers two basic premises upon which trust is founded. That of 1) Ability and 2) Intent.
Point in case. I have a nephew who is 10 years old. He’s a good kid. He applies himself in school, works hard, and is a fine example of what I think a human being ought to be. I fully trust that his intentions towards me and the other members of his family are fully benevolent. He would never intentionally harm anyone. Does that mean the next time we’re on a road trip through heavy traffic on the freeway, that I’ll ask him to hop behind the wheel so I can have a break from the demands of rush hour driving? Of course not. In spite of his great character and noble intentions, he lacks the ability to safely perform the task of safely driving a car in heavy traffic.
Does that mean I do not trust him? The answer is as much yes as it is no because yes, I fully trust his intentions but no, I do not fully trust his ability.
This is an important distinction to make, whether dealing with students, employers, employees, spouses, children, and politicians. It’s okay (and even healthy) to recognize the difference — to trust intentions and yet doubt ability. A person can posses all the talent in the world and yet lack the character/intentions necessary to do the job.
The next time you are tempted to ask or answer a question of trust, don’t. At least not in the limiting yes/no, either/or fashion that those who asked the question want you to answer it. Consider the powerful insight available to you if you will pause long enough to consider each facet of trust independently. What do you trust? What don’t you trust? And more importantly, why?