Do you trust your fellow Americans? Is the gas station attendant, the clerk at the supermarket or the boss where you work a trustworthy person? USA Today published an article recently (November 30, 2013) quoting survey data which showed that two-thirds of Americans do not trust their fellow men and women.
The article states that “an AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.” What happened to trust? Shouldn’t we assume that the person we are dealing with is innocent until proven guilty?
I believe there are many reasons why trust is waning in our country. I’ll outline a few here and then talk about ways you can build trust in people that you deal with every day.
- Technology is so anonymous that it’s hard to know who is really talking and whether they are telling the truth! In today’s age of online communication, is the 30-year-old single white female really a 30-year-old single white female or is it a 56-year-old married white male who is trolling for companionship? We don’t know who is “real” online and who is faking it. There was a time we could look in someone’s eyes and know whether we could trust them or not—electronic communication eliminates this ability.
- Scammers are everywhere. I can’t remember a time in recent history that I have opened my email without finding at least one pleading note, ostensibly from someone I know, telling me they lost their wallet in a foreign country and needed my help! The emails come in from people I know and their real addresses, but the notes are fake. We get desensitized to the pleas and do not trust the source.
- Government and businesses let us down. Think the debacle of the healthcare rollout, the reports on crumbling infrastructure in our bridges and roads, the AIG and Lehman Brothers meltdowns—and add in Bernie Madoff and Enron from years past, and we are incredulous about what our leaders are doing! If we can’t trust the government to get a website up and running, who can we trust?
These are just some of the reasons we lack trust, and we extend that suspicion to the people we meet every day. It’s hard to tell the scammers from the genuine people. A young friend, 30 years old, told me recently how proud he was that he had become “a good liar” because he can get people to trust him and believe in him. It’s powerful to some people to be in control of others’ emotions.