Thursday, January 21, 2021

Trusting strangers



To assume the best about another is the trait that has created modern society.

Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic.

But the alternative—to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception—is worse.

Malcolm Gladwell “Talking to Strangers"


I've written here and elsewhere: 'strangers don't trust'. What strangers do -- at least in project situations -- is accommodate each other in situations and circumstances that are -- in the moment -- common to all. Such an accommodation is trust is extended provisionally, and for the duration, as a belief -- without proof -- that people will 'do the right thing'.

Gladwell tells us trust is not so much a provisional accommodation; he tells us that we naturally without forethought default to believing people are truthful; and by extension, we can go on trusting until we don't. He calls such a default-to-trust essential to a working society. 

Perhaps so.  Every book about project management, and most blogs on the topic, eventually get around to the subject of 'trust'. Why so?

Because most of the people who influence our lives professionally, and to some degree personally, are strangers. We may know them by reputation; we may observe them in certain situations; we may even interact with them in limited circumstances. 

But otherwise, we don't know them, and really have no basis to know how loyal and supportive they may be, or how honest they are in their relationships.

Summarizing

The essential matter for project societies, where there may be many remote workers we never actually meet, whom we know only through their remote persona, is that Gladwell is probably onto something: The glue that holds relationships together is a belief -- without proof -- that people will do the right thing; and this 'glue' is what we call trust.




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