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"I might better serve myself and our collective effort
by sharing the benefit of my initial uncertainty …"

Lore holds that people must prove themselves trustworthy before one should extend them trust. This notion can easily complicate any 'project' assignment as everyone eyes each other suspiciously at first. I never could figure out what might constitute the appearance of trustworthiness, though. If a team member pulls off some selfless public rescue, I suppose that I might find it easy to trust them, but most team members keep their heads down and I'm unlikely to glimpse them demonstrating heroic behavior, so how might they prove themselves trustworthy in my eyes if I'm uncertain what trustworthy even looks like? Besides, the mere absence of evident behavior says little about anything.

I believe that the lore mistakes a sort of naive hopefulness for trustworthiness.
I might hold a high standard for extending my trust, expecting others to demonstrate some great benevolence before believing that I might safely extend them trust. Until then, what? Should I hold them in grave suspicion, unproven? And what toll does my projected distrust exact? Am I rendering myself untrustworthy by withholding extending my trust until I'm somehow satisfied?

In my book The Blind Men and the Elephant, I remember the old adage that one can always trust a snake to be a snake. Trusting a snake to behave like St. Francis seems like a recipe for creating disappointment. The difficulty isn't that the snake is in any way unpredictable, but that I might extend naive hopefulness that the snake, for the first time in recorded history, might not reliably behave like a snake. By holding that naive hopefulness, I discover that the snake is not trustworthy, but only because I extended naive hopefulness rather than trust.

I think we mostly know who we're dealing with. A few individuals manage to cloak their true nature, but humans seem plenty sensitive to when the words and the music fail to match. Yes, con men do exist, but the word quickly gets out about them. A 'project' team notices who proves dependable and who never does. One might at first safely extend trust rather than suspicion with the understanding that their good will won't often prove disappointing or disastrous. Withholding trust seems to reliably produce a sorry sort of safety. Extending it, a more beneficent sort. I need never naively extend hopefulness, yet still extend hopefulness.

When I say that I hold ExtendingTrust as one of my Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, I mean that it might be up to me to set the tone of our engagement. I could slink around filled with suspicion, but I might better serve myself and our collective effort by sharing the benefit of my initial uncertainty while watching what those around me actually do. I might identify a snake, whom I can then trust to be a snake and thereby avoid being bitten or turning bitter in turn.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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