Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Value and trust in relationships.

I recently had a conversation about someone's issues with his coworkers. The core issue was trust. Didn't seem anybody trusted him.

That caused me to want to pop out of my long hiatus from philosophizing. :)

I've operated off a principle of value in voluntary relationships, over the last few years. In a relationship, you give something to the other person, they give you something back. What you give and what you get can be anything tangible or intangible you can imagine. And, just like any commercial transaction, what you get is worth more to you than what you give, or you wouldn't give it, would you? Would you?

That's it in a nutshell. To go further would sound like a relationship counseling session. Of course, to leave it at that introduces filthy commerce into what should be pure. Pure of what, though. Does feeling better about yourself, does feeling loved, does feeling powerful, does feeling appreciated have value? Depending on the person, yes! Just satisfying one of your instincts is plenty of value. And if you want to build a strong relationship with someone, you have to take the time to find out what they really value.

So, back to my coworker. I've found myself asking on numerous occasions what value I get from him. He buys me lunch once in a while, and we talk about our kids sometimes. That's kind of nice, but it doesn't make me willing to take a bullet for him.

So, we haven't got much basis for a relationship. There is very little trade there. How about the trust? How could I recommend to him that he earn the trust of his coworkers? I saw a very cool blog a few days back, talking about the concept of a marker--in gambling parlance, a promise to pay. (If anybody can point me to the appropriate attribution, I would appreciate it.) Has he promised us anything beyond what is required from his job, and delivered on it. Before I can trust you where I have to do something, you have to show you can be trusted when I am just watching. Make a commitment, and demonstrably keep it. If you do it when it costs you something personally, that makes you that much more trustworthy.

So, how does this coworker earn my trust? He has to make commitments beyond what is required of him by his position, and they have to be commitments that he can be seen to be living up to.

And lest I forget, that commitment, of course, has to be to something that I consider of value. In other words, the commitments he makes have to reflect personal values and principles at least somewhat aligned with mine, or at least the ones I would like to have.

That's about all I have to say on it for now. That clarifies things for me a bit.

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