The COVID-19 global pandemic caused by novel coronavirus has already impacted the world in a much adverse way. From causing global lockdowns to changes in human behavior, the virus has managed to make us rethink the way we act, work, and overall live our life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended social distancing as one of the most effective ways to decelerate the spread rate. This has already imperiled one of the primary needs of human beings – physical touch and intimacy. One of other major concerns revolves around the question, “Will we be able to trust people the same way?”
It is completely normal for humans to question a new environment, situation, event, object, or another human being. This is because the new environment comes with uncertainty, which jeopardizes our needs for control and sense of security. And not only new people, the skepticism grows towards known people, who have come in contact with unknown environments, too. With this scenario in mind, the surficial answer to the question reaches to “NO!”, but there is more to this picture.
HOW DO WE TRUST?
Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman write about the 3 elements of trust – positive relationships, good judgement/expertise, and consistency. Positive relationships are about balancing results with concern for others, generating cooperation between others, resolving conflicts, and giving honest feedback in a helpful way. Good judgement and expertise is about anticipating and responding quickly to problems, using knowledge and expertise to achieve results, and even others seeking after their opinions. Finally, consistency is about walking the talk, honoring commitments, keeping promises, and willing to go above and beyond the regular call of duty.
Frances Frei’s TED Talk also gives a similar three elements of trust, viz. the trust triangle – authenticity (I experience the real you), empathy (I believe you care about me and my success), and logic (I know you can do it; your reasoning and judgement are sound).
Professor Dan Ariely in his paper, The Trust Factory, explains about five different trust generators – i) The long game: established relationships, ii) The glass door: transparency, iii) The why factor: intentionality, iv) The counterpunch: revenge, and finally v) The common goal: aligned incentives.
In simple words, he explains these five trust generators as:
i) With consistent partners, people are more trusting.
ii) We are more comfortable when we can see what’s going on behind the scenes.
iii) We are judged less harshly if we suffer as we struggle with moral dilemmas.
iv) The possibility of punishment helps us avoid relationships in which one side is more vulnerable than the other.
v) Sacrificing some income for the benefit of the other party can be an incredibly powerful act.
WHAT DOES THIS TELL ABOUT TRUST?
Simply put, a lot of factors affect whether we trust or do not trust another person, organization, object, or a situation. Summarizing these different literatures, I firmly believe trust comes from consistent acts demonstrating genuine concern for others, keeping others’ best interests at heart, and logical actions with transparent intentions.
SO, WILL WE BE ABLE TO TRUST OTHERS?
In the worst case, we will see everyone with the same lens – “Could s/he be the carrier of the virus?” We might be skeptical towards the family member who has been in three different meetings throughout the day. We will certainly raise an eyebrow on that customer who looks ill and is continuously coughing without covering their mouth. We might even hesitate to shake hands with a new colleague who just joined the work today.
But the point is that all these do not necessarily stop us from trusting people ever again. Yes, we will be cautious and aware. We will change our behaviors in pursuit to co-exist with the virus. But we will not stop trusting people altogether. The key lies in how we communicate with people. The messages we are sending across needs to mention that we are genuinely concerned for them, have their best interest at heart, and act logically with transparent intentions. We need to recognize the other person’s dilemma, and also need to explain ours.
This might sound absurd at the beginning but certain changes are bound to happen, and happen for the overall good.