My father is a great man, I’ve learned a lot from him. Probably one of his greatest qualities is that he reflects a lot and that has allowed him to continuously learn. Like any of us he has his own challenges, battles.
One lesson which he wanted me to learn as a kid was: Never trust anybody.
Why do I believe that he wanted to pass this lesson on to me? He lived the first 30 years of his life in the communist regime when it was hard to trust anybody. I also believe that, deep inside, he wanted me not to be hurt by others.
For many years this lesson impacted relations I’ve built, and how I’ve interacted with people. When I started working, it impacted my relations with my colleagues and my managers. I had trouble trusting others because I always started with the concept that people need to earn my trust and for any mistakes made along the way, they would lose all of the points I imagined they had on my “trust bar”.
I was cautious with people because I was expecting them to hide something or have a hidden agenda. When somebody reacted in a way which could be easily misinterpreted I always picked the negative interpretation.
At work it impacted the way I collaborated in teams, with my colleagues, and with my manager. My instinct was to be cautious and play safe. It didn’t matter if I had potential, if I had great skills or abilities in something. The fact that I had a hard time trusting others impacted a lot of my work and what I was able to achieve.
It was so consuming to not trust others. It drained me of energy and added stress and frustration when, in reality, there was probably nothing to worry about.
I was lucky to have friends and relationships which demonstrated to me that I can trust people. I can trust them even if sometimes they make mistakes. At some point I did a lot of reflection on how much my mistrust of others affects me and how it impacts my personal and work life. I also had the luck to move into a leadership role and in such without trust you are even more doomed.
Completing trainings, reading books about leadership, building high performing teams and organizations, I realized how trust is probably the most important thing. I said to myself that going forward I will start with trust first, I will see the best in people, I will assume that everybody has good intentions.
Rather than people needing to prove they are trustworthy, why not give them the benefit of the doubt, only retracting your trust if they prove it necessary?
This mindset allowed me to unlock a hidden potential in myself, and the people around me, to see solutions to challenges and come up with ideas more easily. I was able to do that because my mind was no longer occupied with worries and frustrations. I was able to build relations faster, I was able to collaborate more easily and probably most importantly, I was happier and more productive.
You shouldn’t imagine that from the day I started to think this way, it was easy and I didn’t have fallbacks to the old mindset. I still have situations even today when I end up thinking: why is this person doing this? And my mind uses the old mindset to look at the situation and I get frustrated, upset.
What I’ve learned is to observe when my mind is doing that and realize that this is an old habit. At that point my solution is to do a reframing exercise: this person has good intentions and most probably we want the same thing, it’s just that we think or approach it differently. With that reframing I’m able than to see options, to come up with solutions and miraculously everything gets resolved.
Did the other person change? Did the problem or context change? Nope, the only thing that has changed is how I look at the situation. This allows me to take a situation where I see no option or solution and just solve it.
Seeing the best in people and giving them trust has been so rewarding for me, both personally and at work.
You are probably wondering: don’t you ever have situations where you lose trust in people? I do, but when that happens, my view on the situation is the following: I gave you trust and you have chosen to not respect that trust. It’s that person who is losing more in this situation, not me. I also prefer to lose in a few situations and win in thousands of them because I choose to give trust first.
There were situations when I made a bad deal because I trusted the seller. That’s fine for me, I might have lost a little bit at that point, but I believe that in the long term, that seller has much more to lose.
At the same time, so many years of being cautious gave me instincts to quickly realize when I should pay attention. I’m not telling you to ignore your instincts.
If you are a leader of a team, there is an interesting exercise you can do: every Monday, think about your teammates and instill the belief that they are the best, have that trust in them. You will probably be surprised in a few months on the results they will produce.
Trusting people around us, thinking the best of them, that they have good intentions, makes your life much better both personally and at work. It unlocks potential in you, in what you can achieve. It gives you energy.
That is why I would recommend that everybody give trust from the first interaction and see the best in people. This will make teams, organizations and the world a better place.