Corina Rosu/123RF
Source: Corina Rosu/123RF

Without trust, human relationships are tenuous at best. In a book authored by Robin Dreeke titled The Code of Trust, Dreeke defines trust as the reason-based adhesive that holds together the psycho-social elements of life such as family, friendships, business, and government. Without trust, existing relationships are hard to maintain and new relationships are even harder to establish. In recent years, American society has been plagued with a deficit of trust as it drifts inexorably from an atmosphere dominated by rationalism to one of emotionalism. Recent polls show that only 19 percent of Americans trust big business, and only 16 percent of Americans their government. Even more disturbing, only 57 percent of all Americans now have a trusted friend, down from 80 percent in 1997. The cost of mistrust to businesses is devastating, but the cost in the quality of our personal relationships takes an even greater toll. Dreeke's central thesis is that true power comes from trust, not manipulation or coercion.

According to Dreeke, trust can be built on five basic principles.

1. Ego suspension

Egotistical people are more interested in achieving their own goals rather than achieving the goals of others. Shared goals create unity in effort and unity in purpose. People who share a common goal build trust with each other. Trust is the fuel that propels personal and business relationships. Without trust, we would spend most of our time looking backward to verify everything a person says or does. We tend to trust others until they give us a reason not to trust them. Putting the needs of others first is the first step in building trust.

 2. Be nonjudgmental

Respect the opinions and perspectives of all people, especially when they differ from your own. No one trusts people who look down on them or don't try to understand them. Dreeke posits that when people feel free to be themselves, others will almost always see their best side. When people feel judged and are less likely to lend their efforts to a common goal.

3. Validate others

No one expects you to agree with all of their opinions, but everyone wants to be understood. All of us were born with the sacred right to our own ideas, and none were born with the desire to destroy others. There is a common decency in every person, and to be worthy of their trust, you must recognize their decency and join them in that shared respect. Mutual respect is the common ground that can be shared by all people uniting mankind in an ever-shrinking world.

 4. Honor reason

Reason creates the foundation of rational, shared self-interest that trust rests upon. Trust inspired by mere emotionalism lasts only as long as the next emotion. The Code of Trust posits that if you give people a good reason to trust you, and they will.

5. Be generous 

Most people now realize that win/win deals are the only ones that endure. In these exchanges, good leaders try to get a little more than they give, but great leaders try to give a little more than they get. Generosity creates the atmosphere of congeniality that gets deals done, and paves the way for future deals. Inserting trust into the equation of personal, political, and professional conduct is part of the solution.

These trust principles, Dreeke says, should not only guide people but corporations and nations as well. Without trusted friends, people become more isolated. Without trust in government, people become less patriotic. Without trust between nations, wars are more evitable.  

Robin Dreeke served as the head of the FBI's Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program, where his primary mission was to thwart the efforts of foreign spies and to recruit American spies. The principles found in The Code of Trust derived from his experiences in the FBI. 

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