Trust? – You go first!

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“Trust is good, control is better,” – these are the words of the Russian politician Lenin.
But can we trust these words?
How would you feel if you always had to control everything – to be able to trust?
Is it trust then at all?

Trust has many aspects:
Trust in oneself, trust in life in general and trust in others. The latter can be further divided into trust in people we know or with whom we have a relationship and the basic trust in the “good in people” in situations with people we do not know.

It has been proven that trust is an important factor for our own wellbeing and happiness.
If you are not able to trust, you cannot relax.
If you cannot relax, you cannot be happy.

Of course our trust level is also influenced by previous experiences. Researchers have found out that it takes 5 positive experiences to balance one negative experience. For this to work, however, despite being cheated, we have to involve ourselves again in situations that give others the opportunity to prove their trustworthiness.
So we need to take a risk to proof the trust,
Basically, trust is a mindset you chosoe – despite the experience of having been cheated.
However, since we are hardwired to be suspicious, we run the risk of feeling confirmed in our distrust after being cheated – not taking a chance again and thus depriving ourselves of further positive experiences.
Yes, to re-generate a trusting mindset after bein cheated it hard work.

However, the following scientific findings are encouraging:

  • It is much more likely that you will not be ripped off if you trust in first place. We humans act very dependent on context. In a more distrustful environment we will also show scepticism. However, if we are presenting ourselves as being trustworthy in others, the likelihood that our counterpart will return the trust increases. One reason for this might be that the binding hormone oxytocin is released when we share trust. Trust creates trustworthiness.
  • Most people are more suspicious than they need to be.
  • Most people are more trustworthy than we think they are.

The following two experiments prove these points:

The “Wallet Drop Experiment” of the Toronto Star in Canada.
For this experiment, 20 wallets with $200 and the address of the owner were deliberately left behind at various locations in the city of Toronto within 14 days.
Before you read on – how many wallets do you estimate were returned to the owner?
Most people answered the same question with an average of 2.3 – that is a 10% return rate. In fact, 16 of the 20 wallets were returned to their owners – which is a return rate of 80%.

And here’s the second, more scientific experiment, which comes from a series of “Trust Game Studies”.
Imagine the following scenario:
You participate in a study with another person. You are in different rooms and never get to know each other personally. You and the other person each receive 10 EUR. You now have to decide whether you want to give your money to your partner. If not, the game ends and you both go home with 10 EUR. If you give the money to your partner, the gamemaster will put four times the amount on top and your partner will get 50 EUR. Your partner then has the chance to go home with these 50 EUR – or to share it with you.
The former would mean that you would go home without any money (loss 10 EUR), the latter that you would go home with 25 EUR instead of 10 EUR.
How would you decide?
Would you take the 10 EUR or take the risk and give the money to your partner?
How likely do you think it is that your partner will walk away with the 50 EUR when you send him the money?
The study has shown that the probability your partner will walk away with the money is only 5%! In fact, 95% of the participants shared the 50 EUR with their partner!
People who are trusted react with trustworthy behaviour.

So how can we succeed in trusting more pro-actively in order to create and have positive experiences – and at the same time minimize the probability of being cheated?

The solution is to find the balance, the sweet spot between too little trust (depriving us from real engagement in relationships and positive experiences) and not enough trust (increasing the likelihood of being cheated.

This balance is called intelligent trust.
Intelligent trust means

  1. Approaching people and situations from the heart with a fundamentally trusting attitude, while taking into account and analysing relevant information and facts- meaning balancing the heart with the head.
  2. Remembering that people are usually more trustworthy than you think!
  3. Take a chance: consciously perceive and create situations in which you pro-actively give trust and enable people to act with trust. This way you contribute to creating a trusting environment that it makes positive experience more likely – which in turn strengthens your trust.
  4. Make it easy for people to act trustworthy towards you – go first, be nice, empathetic, authentic and good.
  5. Take away your natural tendency to distrust by exposing yourself less to negative headlines and instead try to balance out your mental input: At the end of the day, write down your positive experiences and situations in which people acted trustworthily. Consciously search for positive headlines! (e.g. at
  6. Remember yourself of the benefits of pro-active trust: positive experiences, real connection and a good investment in a better society!
  7. What if it did go wrong? Practice forgiveness and a change of perspective. Sometimes we whine on a high level. Probably you are still doing pretty well compared to other people despite the bad experience. Furthermore: hold the person who has broken your trust accountable, i.e. try to understand and learn from the situation and act upon your consequences – but without “thoughts of revenge”.

Trust will play an even more important role in the future – not only in interpersonal encounters but also in general developments.
The more complex a situation is, the more intelligent trust is needed to remain happy and efficient.
And we are definitely not lacking in complexity.

But you can do it, I trust you! 🙂

Be good to yourself,
Your Birgit

Steven M.R. Covey, “Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World”
Dr. Raj Raghunathan, “If you are so smart why aren’t you happy?”

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