Tag: Trust

Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive By

“Trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community.”
— Francis Fukuyama

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Our society is largely based on trust. In fact, it is so ubiquitous we suspect you don’t normally notice it’s influence; for most of us, it is largely habitual.

Trust has evolved as our interactions and influence have become more entwined over time, and the complexity of society has increased. It’s not just our social interactions that have adapted over the years; our tools and technology have also changed dramatically.

This backdrop makes for a fascinating discussion by security technologist Bruce Schneier in his book Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive By. The book outlines how society establishes and maintains trust and tackles some core concepts related to trust from the past, present, and future.

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Why is trust such an important aspect of our society? Part of it is because of the sheer complexity of how our species is linked and interacts.

All complex ecosystems, whether they are biological ecosystems like the human body, natural ecosystems like a rainforest, social ecosystems like an open-air market, or socio-technical ecosystems like the global financial system or the Internet are deeply interlinked. Individual units within those ecosystems are interdependent, each doing its part and relying on the other units to do their parts as well.

To get a better idea of the sheer breadth and depth of this, take a moment to think about situations in your day to day where you choose (consciously or unconsciously) to trust. In the act of driving you are trusting: your fellow drivers, your car manufacturer, the gas station, and your mechanic. When eating in a restaurant you are trusting: your waiter/waitress, the cooks preparing the food, and the farmers who provided the raw ingredients.

We have learned through experience that we can trust somewhat implicitly in these situations, it is rare that someone breaks our trust in the above examples but it does happen.

…all complex ecosystems contain parasites. Within every interdependent system, there are individuals who try to subvert the system to their own ends. These could be tapeworms in our digestive tracts, thieves in a bazaar, robbers disguised as plumbers, spammers on the Internet, or companies that move their profits offshore to evade taxes.

Or… a driver that passes you while texting and a restaurateur violating food health and safety codes to save money. These parasites are good examples of failures of trust. And what they all have in common is a conflict between the interests of society as a whole and the interests of specific individuals or a small group.

This conflict is perfectly normal. You will never have a state where absolutely everyone agrees, and this is a good thing. For example, someone might break the trust for what they believe to be moral reasons, not for selfish or petty reasons. History shows us that those who defy the group norm can even become the catalysts for dramatic, and much needed, social change.

Compliance isn’t always good, and defection isn’t always bad. Sometimes the group norm doesn’t deserve to be followed, and certain kinds of progress and innovation require violating trust. In a police state, everybody is compliant but no one trusts anybody. A too-compliant society is a stagnant society, and defection contains the seeds of social change.

On a micro level everyone defects sometimes. We are as complex as the society in which we live. We will agree with some societal norms and therefore cooperate in those moments, but at other times we may not agree and could defect. This is situational as well, we react differently when we are in desperate situations. We would all steal food if we had a starving family at home. (Or maybe worse, in the case of a truly awful situation.) We are far less likely to defect when all our needs are cared for.

Schneier argues it’s the scope of the defection that we should be worried about.

What we’re concerned with is the overall scope of defection. I mean this term to be general, comprising the number of defectors, the rate of their defection, the frequency of their defection, and the intensity (the amount of damage) of their defection.

The scope of defection is important because the level of cooperation/trust in a society is often indicative of health. Sociologist Barbara Misztal identified three critical functions performed by trust:

1. It makes social life more predictable,
2. It creates a sense of community, and
3. It makes it easier for people to work together.

If the rate of defection is too high then these critical functions are not being met. (As Charlie Munger likes to say, the highest form a civilization can reach is a seamless web of deserving trust.)

Since a healthy, thriving society requires a certain level of trust, we can attempt to nudge possible defectors into complying with the societal norms. The dilemma occurs when an individual has to make a choice between the group interest and their personal competing interest. The idea is that we can add societal pressure that can induce cooperation over selfishness in these types of situations.

In the book Schneier outlines four basic categories of societal pressure:

Moral pressure — A lot of societal pressure comes from inside our own heads. Most of us don’t steal, and it’s not because there are armed guards and alarms protecting piles of stuff. We won’t steal because we believe it’s wrong, or we’ll feel guilty if we do, or we want to follow the rules.

Reputation pressure — A wholly different, and much stronger, type of pressure comes from how others respond to our actions. Reputational pressure can be very powerful; both individuals and organizations feel a lot of pressure to follow the group norms because they don’t want a bad reputation.

Institutional pressure — Institutions have rules and laws. These are norms that are codified, and whose enactment and enforcement is generally delegated. Institutional pressure induces people to behave according to the group norm by imposing sanctions on those who don’t, and occasionally by rewarding those who do.

Security systems — Security systems are another form of societal pressure. This includes any security mechanism designed to induce cooperation, prevent defection, induce trust, and compel compliance. It includes things that work to prevent defectors, like door locks and tall fences; things that interdict defectors, like alarm systems and guards; things that only work after the fact, like forensic and audit systems; and mitigation systems that help the victim recover faster and care less that the defection occurred.

The book goes on to explain these concepts in greater detail as well as taking a look back at the evolution of cooperation, trust, and security.

Schneier also tackles issues like the influence of technology and what the future will bring. In all, Liars and Outliers is a fascinating look at how society enforces, evokes and elicits trustworthiness and compliance, as well as an interesting look at the role of the defector as either a catalyst for social change or the creator of risk in a healthy society.

An FBI Agent Reveals 5 Steps To Gaining Anyone’s Trust

I had an opportunity to ask Robin Dreeke a few questions. Robin is in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s elite Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program and the author of It’s Not All About Me.

Robin combines science and years of work in the field to offer practical tips to build rapport and establish trust. In this brief interview he discusses building relationships, how to approach someone you don’t know and ask for a favor, and the keys to establishing trust.

A lot of people are interested in strengthening and furthering relationships. How can people do this?

This is the most important aspect of everything we do in life. I’m going to give some light science behind each of my answers but to me it just explains the subjective simple explanations behind naturally great trusting relationships.

Both anecdotal (evidence) as well as science supports the fact that the greatest happiness is found in positive social interactions and relationships. The simplest answer to this is to “make it all about them.” Our brain rewards us chemically when we are able to talk and share our own views, priorities, and goals with others… long term, short term, etc. Our brain also rewards us when we are unconditionally accepted for who we are as a human being without judgement.

Both of these concepts are genetically coded in each of us (to varying degrees) because of our ancient survival instincts (ego-centrism) as well as our need to belong to groups or a tribe (tribal mentality for survival and resources). When you put these simple concepts together the answer is simple to understand, but oftentimes difficult to execute…. Speak in terms of the other person’s interests and priorities and then validate them, their choices, and who they are non-judgmentally. Some people do this naturally, for the rest of us you can build this skill and it eventually becomes second nature.

Trust is a foundation to most situations in life. How can we develop trust? What are the keys?

I can only answer from my own background and experience because trust is a very difficult thing to measure and define and each individual’s definition can vary and our brain takes in much more than verbal information when determining trust. For me and what I teach I start with what I said in question one. Trust first starts with a relationship where the other person’s brain is rewarding them for the engagement with you by doing what I outlined above.

Part two of my trust process is to understand the other person’s goals and keeping their goals and priorities on the top of my list of goals and priorities. By making the other person’s goals and priorities yours, trust will develop. Over time (some people faster than others) a need to reciprocate the kindness and relationship will build. In other words, trust is built faster and stronger when there is no personal agenda.

What’s the best way to approach someone you don’t know and ask them for a favor?

Using sympathy and seeking help is always the best. If you can wrap the help / favor you are looking for around a priority and interest of the individual you are engaging, the odds of success increase. Add social proof (i.e., others around you helping already or signed a petition etc.) and you increase it even more. Again, focus on how you can ask a favor while getting their brain to reward them for doing so.

What are some strategies to build rapport while giving a talk, presentation, or interview?

Ego Suspension / self-deprecating humor… Make it all about them! How is the information you are chatting about going to benefit them? Talk about the great strengths and skills they each have already and that all you hope to do is to have them understand their strengths even better and be able to pass them on to others more effectively if they want to. Validate every question and opinion non-judgmentally. If you don’t happen to agree, simply ask “that’s a fascinating / insightful/ thoughtful opinion… would you mind helping me understand how you came up with it?” Again, their brain will reward them on multiple levels for this.

I suspect you spend a lot of time trying to figure out if people are manipulating you or the situation? Can you talk about this? How can you tell when people are attempting to manipulate you?

I’ll start by saying I don’t like the word manipulate. The word tends to objectify people and removes the human being from the equation. When people feel they are objects, trust will not be built. I tend to not think of anyone trying to manipulate me but at times a very self-serving agenda becomes evident. This is what manipulation generally is…. a self-serving agenda where the other person feels used with no reciprocity. When I notice that there may be an overabundance of a self-serving agenda (manipulation) I don’t judge the person negatively. I try to explore two areas in order to understand them better. (go back to my first answers here… this process begins to build a relationship and trust :)) I try to understand what their objective is and why that is their objective. What are they trying to achieve, etc. I will also attempt to understand why they felt a certain way of communicating with me would be effective for them in the situation. I tend to ask questions to help them think about how they might be more successful in their objectives using other methods… such as I outlined above. In other words, help them achieve whatever objective with me they had…. because wasn’t that their goal after all? :) See… keep it always coming back to them.

If you had to give a crash course in building a relationship with someone, what are the top 5 things people need to do? What carries the bulk of the freight so-to-speak?

1) Learn… about their priorities, goals, and objectives.
2) Place… theirs ahead of yours
3) Allow them to talk…. suspend your own need to talk.
4) Seek their thoughts and opinions.
5) Ego suspension!!! Validate them unconditionally and non-judgmentally for who they are as a human being.

If you haven’t already, check out Robin’s Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport With Anyone.