Two Kinds of Trust

Do you believe what people tell you?

I do – and I don’t. I think there are two kinds of trust.

The first kind is trusting someone’s intention. This means that when someone tells you something, you believe they’re saying it in good faith, that they’re not deliberately lying to you.

By default, I trust people highly this way – higher than average, I think. In my experience, most people try to tell me the truth.

I’m very cautious about deciding that someone’s intentionally lied to me. I consider other explanations: is it possible they got confused, or that the information changed, or that I misinterpreted their answer, or that they misinterpreted my question? To me, lying is a very serious thing, so I don’t want to find someone guilty unless I’ve considered all the possibilities.

I think that’s partly why most people trust intention less: they jump too quickly to the conclusion that someone lied, so they feel they’re being lied to more often.

The second kind of trust is trusting someone’s accuracy. Here, it’s not about honesty or good faith. It’s only about whether they got the facts right.

Here, my trust levels are very low – much lower than average, I think. I simply don’t believe that people know what they’re talking about, especially in casual conversation.

When someone makes a surprising or interesting claim, my first reaction is, Cool – I wonder if that’s true? If I’m intrigued enough, I’ll make a mental note to look it up later. Sometimes these claims really do turn out to be accurate; very often, they’re half-truths or garbled misinterpretations; surprisingly often, they’re flat-out wrong.

I’m guilty too, of course. Everyone is. Humans in general just aren’t equipped for rigorous accuracy in their recall. That’s why scientists spend so much time training themselves to overcome their natural biases. We’re built to survive, not to be encyclopedias.

To me, doubt is the only reasonable response to any statement, even if I’m the one saying it. I’ve just been burned too many times to think otherwise.

Where do you fall on these two trust scales?

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2 responses to “Two Kinds of Trust

  1. I’m the same way in both accounts, but especially the second and especially when it’s coming from someone I know speaks without actually looking up on a subject or I don’t know how they could have gotten the information.

    Usually it’s fixed when they tell me where they learned whatever it is they’re saying. For me that adds credentials, but most of the time they don’t have an answer. They’re just stating opinions as facts and I always gotta doubt the validity of the information in those situations.

    The only time I really doubt a person’s intention is when I see that they can get a direct benefit if they can get me to do whatever it is they want me to do with the information given. That always makes me a little suspicious, but not always. It depends on the person, my knowledge of said person, my instinct and the situation.

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