When we were in our early teens, ‘stickers’ were much in vogue and my elder brother was an avid collector. Our home was filled with stickers and that was our pride. Once, our uncle had brought his friend home and that friend conversed to us about his collection of stickers. He promised to send us a bunch through post after he got back to Chennai and took down our postal address. We were excited. Those days, snail mail was delivered twice a day. At home for our summer break, each day we waited eagerly for the postman and the stickers. With each passing day, our disappointment increased; enthusiasm waned and turned to gloom. After a week, our mother noticed we were sulking. Getting to know the background, she smiled the issue away. We were made to realize that the guest may have just mentioned it in the passing and may not have meant it seriously. Having already boasted about the expected addition to our collection amongst friends, we felt ‘let down’. Hence, to us it was plain and simple ‘deceit’. Personally, it was the first instance when it dawned that people may not mean what they say.
That insight was part of ‘growing up’ to understand ‘face value’ needn’t be ‘meant value’. Having been in an atmosphere where the elders at home were clear either way in handling our requests, it took time to comprehend that not all promises are made seriously. Real world has instances aplenty where words are not kept, sowing the seeds of distrust and suspicion. This invariably takes its toll on the quality of relationships. Trust is not a ‘given’ and the earnestness of intent is gauged by sincerity in execution. Such action leads to the unswerving belief that assurances are indeed authentic. Trust then springs forth as a bona fide outcome.
Faith in a superpower, whichever way a person conceives it, could be certitude without proof. On the other hand, ‘trust’ is certitude that needs affirmation on an ongoing basis. Trust is built in trickles over time. Consistency displayed in thoughts, words and action fortifies trust. Be it amongst family members at home, peers in social groups or across levels in organizations, trust cannot be taken for granted. It needs to be actively and consciously cultivated and nurtured.
Assurances may be given on the spur of the moment to take care of the situation on hand, to postpone a problem, merely to project an image, to clinch a deal, to extract a favour or to reconcile differences. These may fool some people for some time but integrity would be called to question sooner than later. It is no surprise that a politician’s promise has become a joke today. Reactions to a broken promise may range from simple disappointment to a strong sense of betrayal. This could well spell the end of a relationship as it is trust that decides and defines bonds.
It is trustworthiness of character that bestows credibility to leadership. An effective leader clarifies expectations at the outset, clears mismatches, promises pragmatically and delivers reliably. He would be transparent and ensure that justice is not only done but it is also seen to be done. He would apprise people who are affected by a decision on how it has been made, the thought process and the constraints associated with the situation. This would display legitimacy of the decision and make parties involved own it up together. A leader would then be able to empower his team in an atmosphere of trust with an air of confidence.
Unfortunately, a few persons have a yawning gap between the ‘aspirational self’ from which they talk and the ‘real self’ from which they act. Their impression management strategies not backed by real character lack authenticity. Their political games and power play involve flattery, back biting and twisted tales. It is a matter of time before they fall a victim to the demon of distrust they’ve created themselves.
The magic ingredient that can make us move from conscious to unconscious competence on trust building is ‘genuineness’. Poetic talk of ‘woods that are lovely, dark and deep and promises to keep’ may suffice for initial inspiration. However, this needs to be followed up consistently and transparently with sincere action. This would attest our genuineness irrespective of consequences, chiselling a trustworthy smile that flows, connects and bonds…
(The writer may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)