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Trust is Better, Distrust Is Easier

December 27, 2021 by Twan van de Kerkhof

Operating from trust is desirable but difficult; distrust is easier and more widespread. The pandemic has fueled distrust; in organizations because the social cohesion among colleagues has eroded, in some countries because the trust of citizens in their governments has decreased. Trust is superior because it decreases transaction costs and because of its intrinsic value; it increases the quality of life, makes us more human.

Trust is by definition subjective. It is a belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. Trust requires a leap of faith, Frédérique Six, an Associate Professor of Public Governance at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, writes in one of her blogs; she has published a series of blogs about trust, focusing on the public sector. Taking the leap of faith means acting on the basis of positive expectations about the other party, as if the uncertainty and vulnerability that are inherent in trust don’t exist. It isn’t a leap into the blind though, you can still check if your expectations come true. A disruption of trust can be considered an opportunity to invest in the relationship and engage into a dialogue about what happened and how to repair it, Six adds. Such an effort can deepen the level of trust. Trust is hard work because of its inherent uncertainty and the required willingness to invest in the relationship. Distrust is easier.

Operating from trust requires a radical acceptance of imperfection and emergence, Six writes. Life cannot be fully predicted or top-down organized; many processes arise bottom-up.

Operating from trust has become harder because the climate in society has become less conducive. Many people and organizations don’t accept disappointments or mistakes anymore. Everything has to be perfect and certain; if setbacks occur, more rules and control are introduced to engineer them away and those that are guilty are identified and sentenced.


See also ELP Leadership Conference 2022 ‘Restoring Trust’, 6 Oct 2022, https://www.leadershipconference.eu/