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How to Win Trust

Posted by on 14/02/2013

Trust is one of the fundamental games in Life.  We all play.  Not just humans but every animal on the planet.  That’s because it’s part of Survival.  Those who know when to trust and when to flee, win the Survival Game.  Some say Trust is the most important mini-game in the Game of Life.  Let’s just say that if you don’t excel at Trust, you won’t have much of a Life.

How does it work?

Trust is played whenever one animal interacts with another.  Each player must decide if the other is friend or foe.  The game is really that simple.  One little question with big consequences:  Will this creature harm me?  If you choose correctly, you win the round.  If you don’t, you lose.  It’s a zero sum game.  There are no degrees or points.  You either trust and you survive…or you don’t and you get hurt…or worse.

For many animals, Trust must be won because it’s a matter of life or death.  If you trust your opponent and he turns out to be a predator, you’re dead meat.  Literally.  That’s considered an Epic Loss.  However, if you choose not to trust the lion creeping stealthily towards you and run, you win.  (Though it should be noted, if you don’t actually escape, your win will feel much like an Epic Loss.  Winning at Trust does not guarantee that you win at Survival. This is part of the Cosmic Joke.)

Like other animals, humans constantly play Trust.  We initiate a round every time we encounter another animal.  Is this dog friendly?   Will that snake bite?  Can I be sure the pigeon won’t poop on my head?  However, it’s when we play with other humans that Trust moves to a whole new level.

Every day we’re assessing whether others are dangerous or safe, real or fake, genuine or lying by asking questions like: Can I be sure that driver won’t hit me?  Is this stranger I’ve just met telling me the truth?  Should I vote for that candidate?

Unlike other animals that can judge based on fangs and snarling, humans often must rely on subtle clues.  Deciding whether someone is friend or foe can be difficult.  Some players have good intentions while others are motivated by total self-interest.

What are the strategies for winning Trust?

There are are three basic strategies for winning Trust. They can be used individually or in combination.

Strategy #1: Instinct

The first is the one all animals are born with – instinct.  When you sense a predator approaching, you run like hell.  It requires no thought.  You just trust your gut and go.

But when you sense that the other player is harmless, you stay and possibly befriend her.  If this harmless player is also attractive, you might play the Mating Game.  And if she completely wins Trust and makes you feel safe, you may even find Love.  Love is a grand prize and a tremendous power-up for humans.  That’s why it’s a major quest for so many players.

Strategy #2: Oldest Trick in the Book

The second strategy is also known as the Oldest Trick in the Book (OTB).  This trick is used by many animals – even if they’ve never read the Book.  They just fake it.  Some animals play dead, others camouflage, feign disinterest, or pretend to be harmless.  The OTB can be used to convince predators that you’re not particularly delicious.  It  can also be used to convince predators that you are even more ferocious.

Be aware, predators can use the OTB to convince you that they’re not a threat.  In the human version of Trust, these players are known as sociopaths and con artists.  We call them Icks.  They can be ever so charming and friendly.  And they know how to manipulate you into overriding your natural instinct.

Strategy #3: Caution

The third strategy is used by those who can’t decide whether to stay, run or fight.  They proceed with caution.  Caution is a proven strategy for making sure you don’t become an Epic Loser.  Caution is often used by those who are unsure of their own instinct because they are dealing with an opponent using the OTB.

Do I have trust issues?

One of the clever ways that advanced Trust players manipulate lower level players is by convincing them that they are terrible at playing the game.  They tell them that they have “trust issues” and something is wrong with them for not trusting.  You can recognize these dangerous players when they reveal themselves with two telling words: TRUST ME.  If there’s one thing to remember about playing Trust, it’s this – Never trust a player who says: “trust me.”  If you’re feeling hesitant that’s because your Trust-o-Meter is telling you to be cautious and base your decision on careful observation.  Is the other player consistent?  Do his actions match his words?  Is she too good to be true?

This is why caution is an effective strategy.   A trustworthy person will never demand your trust.  She will be happy to earn it. Only someone eager to win Trust will try to force you to make a decision before you’re ready.

Who can you trust?

The good news is that you can actually trust most people.  There’s only about 4% of the human population that absolutely can’t be trusted.  So there are far more potential friends out there than foes.

The most important game of Trust is the one you play with yourself.  If you trust your instinct, you will win.  Most of the time.  No matter how cautious you are, you will encounter those high-level players who know how to make you doubt your instinct and trust them instead of yourself.  And you will feel foolish for letting them win Trust.  But just award yourself some Foole Points and accept that Trust is a part of Life.   And you may just get lucky and find Love.

Which strategy do you use when you play Trust?  Has it ever made you feel foolish?

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