The Dark Side of Trust…

Trust can be a vicious and manipulative weapon of control.

As much as I’ve researched and studied the importance, development and maintenance of trust in great relationships, I’ve only recently started to examine trust’s less attractive aspects.

Someone may grant you trust based on the belief that you will act in a certain way, even when they aren’t around—what I call conditional/behavioral trust. Without some careful consideration, this type of trust can be used as a form of control. And while there are certainly actions we are willing to assure others we won’t do, a healthier form of trust is a belief that another person is capable of making good decisions and has the best of intentions—without prescribing what those decisions might be.

When we meet a new colleague or personal friend, the world of possibility is open. We don’t really know anything about them and therefore don’t have any expectations about who they are or how they’ll behave. Their every action holds the possibility for surprise and delight.

Over time, we develop an idea of whom this person is and how they’ll act (which may or may not be accurate). Unknowingly, we created and applied an evaluative filter—an unspoken set of conditions for maintaining the trust we’ve granted. Because these expectations are implicit, they may not be aware of them, agree with them or feel it is any business of ours to begin with, and because we’ve already decided how they should behave, we’ve limited their ability to surprise or delight us in their actions. Do the right thing (in our eyes) and they are simply doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Stray from our conditions, and they’ve broken our trust.

Trust isn’t an agreement or contract; it’s a belief in the essential goodness of another human being. Humans by definition are imperfect and flawed, so be careful not to grant or accept conditional/behavioral trust as it holds the potential to dampen or even destroy an otherwise mutually rewarding relationship.