Once Bitten, Twice Shy==TRUST IS THE BUSINESS
Thread poster: Yubing YANG (X)

Yubing YANG (X)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Apr 24, 2002

Here is a good article I enjoyed reading.


I pasted the whole text:


April 21, 2002

Once Bitten, Twice Shy


HINK of trust as a natural resource, like water. It oils the machinery of human interaction in everything from marriage and friendship to business and international relations. There are reserves of trust, in a perpetual state of replenishment or depletion. And in this parched and suddenly sweltering spring, it is not just water supplies that are looking ominously low.

The sexual abuse scandal roiling the Roman Catholic Church has drained the trust that many Catholics had vested in their priests and in the church hierarchy. Enron has undermined trust in Wall Street, corporate accounting and retirement security. The inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to move an inch toward negotiation leaves one almost mistrusting the very idea of trust.

But what exactly is trust? And how, in a world that seems so suddenly filled with suspicion ¡ª in the parish, in the workplace, among nations ¡ª can trust be recovered?

As psychologists know, trust tends to be built slowly, through small steps. It is fragile. In everything from diplomacy to intimacy, it is easier to obliterate than to create.

Some say trust is the expectation that the faith one places in someone or some institution will be honored. It demands vulnerability and grows through small risks. And it accumulates when those risks are reciprocated, said Roderick Kramer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University\'s Graduate School of Business. A friend reveals something personal, it is matched, trust deepens.

But a single betrayal can shatter trust. When that happens, according to John G. Holmes, a professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, the person whose trust has been violated may become self-protective, oversensitive, hypervigilant. They become risk averse.

The great irony of trust is that in order to rebuild it, one must take risks with the very person who broke it. One must make oneself vulnerable to one\'s betrayer.

\"You can restore trust,\" Professor Holmes said. \"But it\'s damned hard.\"

The decline of trust in government and other institutions in the United States over the past 30 years has long been documented through public opinion polling. At the same time, some social scientists like Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, have tracked what they describe as a dwindling of social capital, which includes the so-called social trust that helps make possible cooperation in civic life.

The credibility gap in government was driven primarily by Watergate and Vietnam; it affected Americans of all ages. The decline in social trust has no single cause, Professor Putnam said; older Americans remain as trusting as ever, but they are increasingly outnumbered by younger, less trusting people.

Not everyone finds those trends alarming. Some have pointed out that the country was founded in part on a mistrust of government. Joseph S. Nye Jr., dean of the Kennedy School, suggests that the high levels of confidence in government after World War II may ultimately prove to have been more of an aberration than will the skepticism that followed.

But these days, it is hard not to wonder whether the trust deficit is suddenly ballooning. In addition to cases like Enron and the Catholic Church, the climate of distrust in the Middle East has made negotiations nearly impossible, and the failed overthrow of President Hugo Ch¨¢vez of Venezuela this month immediately produced suspicions in Latin America ¡ª despite a lack of any clear evidence ¡ª that the United States had been covertly involved.

\"I like to think there\'s a reservoir of trust and there\'s been a depletion of that reservoir,\" said Professor Kramer, who studies trust and leadership. \"Enron, I think, is a major assault on people\'s trust in financial institutions but also, importantly, in the institutions that are supposed to hold financial institutions accountable, such as Arthur Andersen. So that was a double assault. Because even if we know that institutions aren\'t fully trustworthy, we believe that we have a system in place that makes trust reasonable and prudent. That\'s our defense against misplaced trust; it\'s our Maginot Line. And that was breached.\"

When trust collapses entirely, suspicion hardens into distrust.

\"There\'s not much you can do when you get to that stage,\" Professor Holmes said. \"In relationships, it usually means they break up, if they can.\"

But many cannot ¡ª sometimes for financial reasons, perhaps because of the children. A person\'s relationship with social institutions operates in a similar way.

Most employees simply cannot afford to bail out of their job or their 401(k) when their employer declares bankruptcy. Where does a Catholic who is disenchanted with the church hierarchy take their family and their faith? And no country faced with intractable animosity on the part of its neighbors has the option of pulling up stakes and finding another spot.

In global conflicts, a classic negotiating technique entails one side taking a small, unilateral step forward, said Robert G. Folger, a professor of organizational behavior at Tulane University who specializes in conflict management. That is the sort of step, some said, that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell probably hoped the Israelis or the Palestinians might take.

YOUR\'RE trying to rebuild trust out of distrust,\" Professor Folger said. \"Part of the way you would do that would be to be vulnerable. It\'s tricky. You hate an enemy that you\'ve feuded with for generations. Your first step has to be tiny. That\'s the fine line. You can\'t afford to get your throat cut.\"

That is especially difficult in the Middle East, Professor Putnam said, because people have been trying confidence-building measures there for a long time. \"You try doing stitches,\" he said. \"Then over the last 18 months, 10 years of stitching together was ripped out. Once it\'s ripped out, it takes 10 years to make up.\"

As for the church, Christopher Bellitto, a historian of reform movements in the church and an editor at Paulist Press, a religious publishing house in Mahwah, N.J., said there had been instances in the past in which the church had violated the people\'s trust, but it was eventually restored and emerged stronger.

He suggested that the clergy at all levels should respond to the current crisis by taking the step of increasing its trust in the laity, allowing them to participate more fully in the life of the church; and, he said, he hoped the laity \"would remember to trust the overwhelming majority of priests and bishops, 98.5 percent, who are the good guys.\"

There is one recent event that has cut sharply against the long-term declines in trust. The attacks on Sept. 11 and what has followed appear to have abruptly reversed the decades-long decline in confidence in the government and major institutions, as well as the decline in social trust.

Professor Putnam and his colleagues surveyed 30,000 Americans in the fall of 2000, then interviewed 500 to 600 of them again last November. They found big increases in professed trust in a wide range of things: government, the police, people of other races, neighbors and the local news media. Additional interviews last month suggest that only the upsurge in trust in government has begun to recede ¡ª and that only slightly.

\"9/11 was a demonstration fundamentally that we need one another,\" Professor Putnam said last week. \"It was a horrible tragedy. But, having said that, it is the kind of opportunity for rebuilding trust and solidarity that comes along once a century.\"


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Once Bitten, Twice Shy==TRUST IS THE BUSINESS

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