The concept of trust

We all know that trust is important for relations. When we meet a new person we try to pick up as many useful signals and signs of who that person is as possible – can I trust her/him? I sometimes give lectures for big groups of people and then I always try to start with telling them a little about who I am so that the audience will get a chance to understand my motivation to why I stand there in front of them and if they can rely on my competence.

Social media is also about trust. We watch each other’s behavior and evaluate if those we communicate with are trustful. Some people claim that you have to meet someone face to face to know if he/she is trustworthy, but I disagree, it depends… I agree that you can’t pick up the same signals as you do face to face, when you interact with someone online, but on the other hand, when you meet face to face you can’t pick up the same signals as you do online. See? Every situation has its own set of possible signals.

You need to have good social skills and know how to interpret signals both when you interact online and face to face. The problem is that it probably takes a lifetime to learn and get ”all the experiences you need”, that’s why you are bound to make mistakes now and then.

I have two experiences of getting to know a person, work together and then these two relations evolved and ended in totally different ways.

Man #1

The first one is a man who contacted me and we had a meeting face to face. We had a lot of fun discussing marketing, communication and media. It led to the idea of writing a book together. We lived far away from each other, so most of the time we used internet to discuss the project. I thought that I could trust this man, and I really wanted to get that book written, so I probably neglected a few signals that should never be neglected. Like if the person you work with suggests a timeline for the project that is extremely short and at the same time, that person don’t deliver his part of the job. Like if the person continues to talk like if he would deliver his part of the job, and still fails to deliver in time? I don’t find procrastinators a bit charming. In fact, to expose others for your own disability to deliver jobs right in time is something I always have disliked and after this experience I truly hate it.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone can be late at some occasions, but not every time. To not deliver in time on a regular basis is to lie.

This man also wanted me and my company to do another project with him. It was very important that HE should be the project leader even though he lacked in experience and knowledge about the subject. Even so I thought that it could be a good idea to have a project leader in the country where the project took place. The more I think about this afterwards, the more certain I get that this project would have run smoother and more effective with me as the project leader. It would also have been more fair towards the customer. With him as the project leader economy and hierarchy seemed to be touchy subjects as well?

This man had his way of saying ”If I should be honest, and one is supposed to be honest, right?” and then he would tell me something that afterwards seemed a bit strange and left a feeling that he was actually hiding something.

How did this relation work out? It didn’t. In the end he burnt all his bridges by saying the most hurtful and rude things. So, we don’t work together anymore.

Man #2

My next example is a man that I have never met face to face. We learned to know each other in the comment’s field at a stock forum. After a while we engaged in a more frequent communication – I told him about Sweden and the island of Gotland where I live and he told me about the place where he lived. It so happened that I got a job request from a person who needed a job to get done very quickly. I could almost do the job, but not all the way and this man happened to have the knowledge that I lacked.

We did four jobs together, created a good working method and the result was excellent! I could trust this man. He delivered right in time, he kept me informed of his plans during a job, so that I would get a chance to adapt my plans. He was kind, polite, accurate, effective and fun. I trusted him. I trusted his knowledge, I trusted that he would do his part of the job and I knew that he wouldn’t try to fool me. How can I say this when I never met him face to face?

Well, one thing that I remember is when I asked him how much he charged per hour. He sent me a list of all kinds of jobs  that he got payed to do – many of them not full payment because it was more like jobs he did for fun, he wasn’t sure how he should define the job he was about to do for me. It turned out that we both charged about the same for qualified work, so I decided that he of course would get payed as much as I get payed per hour.

Maybe he did have some problem with delivering some things, like his invoice… I had to ask him again and again to send me his bill. Not until I said ”Please, I want to be able to ask you to do more jobs with me, but if I don’t get the chance to pay you, then I will feel like if I’m using you, and then I will feel bad to ask you to do more jobs” did he send his first bill. Maybe he wasn’t truthful all the time either, because when I asked him ”How many hours did you spend on this job?” he would give me a number and I would send my invoice to the customer, then I would get my coworker’s bill, only to find that he charged me just half of what he said he should… I didn’t know what to say about that, but when I sort of complained, he wrote back ”A good conscience is the best pillow”.

How did this relation work out? Perfectly fine until the end. The problem is that it ended because he got sick and died in a very short time. He was part of my future plans, not a very big part because I do many kinds of jobs, but still a part that I enjoyed and felt proud over. I looked forward to keep on working with him. I trusted him.

  • Trust is necessary for good working relations
  • It’s easy to fool yourself that you trust someone – you shouldn’t trust yourself then…
  • Meeting someone face to face doesn’t necessarily mean that you get better at evaluating that person.
  • It’s absolutely possible to trust someone that you have only interacted with online.
  • In fact, communication is the relation, no matter if you communicate on internet or face to face.

In memoriam of Scott Murray whom I trusted and enjoyed working with. 

6 replies
  1. Debbie Elicksen
    Debbie Elicksen says:

    You described this to a “T.” Our digital relationships are real, because we are communicating with real people. In person or via webcam or chat are the same in a global environment.

  2. Malcolm
    Malcolm says:

    — This man had his way of saying ”If I should be honest,…”

    As an ex-New Yorker, anytime I find someone who says something like this a lot arouses my suspicion.

    (Like Trump “I am a very smart guy.”)

    • Åsa
      Åsa says:

      Yes, I think that man might have more in common with Trump. Like the desire to be glamorous, but not really interested in doing the hard work it takes to get there.


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