By Jamuna Rangachari September 2009 Trust is the glue that binds relationships and the grease that keeps the wheels of society moving. Without it, all human interaction would fall apart. A glimpse of the various avenues of trust TIPS FOR CULTIVATINGWith strangers• Give the benefit of doubt• Try to establish a rapport• If you have nothing much to lose, listen to your heartWith friends and relations• Don’t doubt the intention• Maintain the rapport• Clarify doubts and misgivings• Never allow the communication to break down• If your best efforts do not succeed, accept it and move onWith children• Don’t assume the worst• Give age-appropriateresponsibilities at every stage of growth and give them the space to execute it• Don’t break their trust in you• Explain how important it is to maintain trust in themselves and othersWith ourselves• Be truthful • Don’t make commitments you cannot honour• Be honest and impartial about your own ability and competence• Assess your trustworthiness every now and then and work on it when requiredWhen not to trustCultivating a trusting disposition does not mean trusting blindly. It does mean a willingness to believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It also implies that you evaluate the person, especially someone new to you, until you can be confident of trusting them.Dr Bhatt cautions us to tread carefully and remember that trust does come with a degree of responsibility. “Just as we choose to love, we choose to trust. Always remember trust is a verb, not a noun and requires your action and involvement. Do not trust blindly, but with your eyes open,” he states. Ameeta Shah explains, “You may trust someone for their medical advice or to be there to emotionally support you, or in the quality of work they will deliver. You may not trust the same person with money or vice versa. It is important for us in our relationships to discern what we can trust someone for and what we cannot, and then we may choose to keep a relationship for the trusted parts and by being aware of areas of mistrust, keep ourselves safe by limiting interactions in those areas. We may even open up to the others about areas we trust them and areas we do not, and that therefore we will check in on those areas.We may have good systems in place that make people behave in trustworthy ways. For example in some offices you may have the system of switching off the cellphone at work hours so you have trust that no one is chatting instead of working. Ultimately, real trust needs rapport building abilities. For this, we need to build our own competence in understanding and evaluating others, without arrogance, or the buttress of ego, but in an impartial way. When the effort is required from your side, it pays to go the extra mile, instead of giving up, or becoming bitter and cynical. When all fails, we have to understand, accept, and move on. This requires absolute honesty with one’s own self, as well.-Dinaz Dastur My household help, Sheela, was washing the dishes one morning when my attention was drawn to a glint on her left wrist. She was wearing a watch! My smile of pleased surprise faded when I found the watch looking most familiar. Surely that was my watch, which I had been looking for and been unable to find? My heart thudded with horror. How could she do this? She was a person I thought I knew and trusted.Slowly, I asked, “New watch?” “Oh, it’s an old one but for me it is new, as it was gifted to me by my niece,” she replied with a happy smile. Was it over-confidence or lack of guilt? I sat down and assessed the situation again. Surely, she would not have flaunted the watch in front of me had there been an iota of guilt in her. I refrained from confronting her and searched all over again in the likely places my watch could possible be. Finally, to my great relief, I did find the watch in a remote corner. Was it a strange coincidence that she had happened to own the same model or was it a test of trust? I think it was the latter for I have never felt as gratified as I did that day in not allowing my trust to break down. On the other end of the spectrum, we do have collapses of trust as well, which becomes even harder when the relationships are close ones.“I will not touch a drop of alcohol, ever again,” said Mehta (name changed) a Mumbaiite, to his wife, after he had a bad accident due to his drunkenness. Though sceptical, his wife did feel this incident had brought him to his senses. Alas, he succumbed again to the temptation, much to her chagrin. Traumatised time and again, she felt she could never trust him henceforth.Seeta Sahni (name changed) was devastated when her husband left her for another woman and even usurped some of her savings. They were in the same multinational organisation, which made it even harder. Embittered, she did not even have the courage to face the world, and certainly not her office colleagues.When trust breaks down, relationships break down. Whether it is at the level of individuals, between families, or within society, trust is the inevitable glue that binds relationships. The wheels of society are greased by trust. Without it, all human interactions would fall apart. Yet, few of us look deeply at this quality and even less choose to consciously cultivate it. Trust’s worst enemy is the disposition towards cynicism. It is so much easier to believe that the world is largely untrustworthy and therefore must be fixed with a vigilant eye than it is to keep an open mind about life and people in general and risk getting hurt or duped.However, the costs of mistrust are astronomical. At a personal level, mistrust forces us to operate from a defensive and resisting stand that breeds stress and psychosomatic illnesses within. The inability to trust also breeds unhappiness and alienation for deep relationships are impossible without it.Even for those who trust their loved ones, trusting the larger world is difficult. But is that a satisfactory way to function? Are we aware that the more we trust, the more trustworthy life appears and the less we trust, the less trustworthy is life? After all, we get what we give and if we give thoughts of distrust, we will be given the experience of it. How can we work on this paradox? Is there a way to cultivate trust? How can we ensure that this does not expose us to duplicity and deceit? What does trust depend on? On others or on ourselves? And once trust is gone, is that the end of the equation? Let us explore.The society and media“Even in conflict-ridden Israel, the media follows an unwritten code of conduct. On the front page, positive stories of growth and development are printed,” said ex-President Kalam in an address, “Whereas here we always see theft, scams, terror, and the like. Is that the only thing that happens in our nation?” he queried.The result of this assault of bad news on our consciousness is an ebbing away of trust. It has been dinned into us often enough that crime is increasing and we the people are increasingly unsafe. However, what we do not recognise is that the media prints the exception and not the rule. A thousand houses may not be burgled but the media will report the one house that has been burgled, or the one elder who has been murdered or the one child who has been molested. It is time we recognised that the media does not present a balanced view of society. It does not reflect real life. Because real life has far more good than bad. The average person encounters far more law-abiding citizens than criminals, and finds more good than bad in the world he lives in. Stories of love, compassion, selfless service and heroism can be seen by those who have eyes to see, because they are all around us.With strangersIn a train journey from Chennai to Mumbai, Mrs Ramesh (name changed) talked and chatted to a Gujarati couple for quite some time. Later in the day, she felt unwell and nauseous. The couple took it upon themselves to escort her home and as nobody was there, even waited until her husband returned from office.Padma Srinivasan (name changed) wondered why the tea stall near her regular bus stand was closed. She often used to chat with the friendly seller Ahmed, and knew quite a bit about him. Suddenly Ahmed came, as if on cue, and said, “Come into my house and chat with my wife for a while. It is not safe to go on your route today.” This was a period when some anti-Tamil riots had erupted in Bangalore. She quickly went with him and called everyone to inform them that she was safe and may be home a little later, which she did do later in the day. Conversely, when I had been to the UK some time ago, I felt weighed down by the cloud of suspicion with which I was viewed, with no way of removing it. The locals seemed to flinch even at making eye contact with me. I felt isolated and lonely and longed for a feeling of camaraderie. When I made friends later and shared this feeling with them, I was surprised at the reasons. Very few were genuinely suspicious. In most cases, it was just standard British reservation against strangers. Ironically, many did not even realise they had been aloof.Even today, I can never forget this bleak phase and try not to subject another to such a feeling. The experience also made me realise that it is up to us to circumvent and create trust around us. Therefore, whenever possible, I smile, talk and reach out to all that I encounter. As a result, I have formed some wonderful friendships in trains, autos, taxis, vegetable shops and elsewhere. Many maintain that this universal friendliness is unwise. I maintain that not all strangers are out to rip us off and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Even when we are asked for help, it is worthwhile assessing the person’
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