The Elements of Trust & Their Significance to Relationships

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  • 0:02 Trust
  • 0:35 Definition of Trust
  • 1:05 Parties Involved
  • 2:04 Characteristics
  • 3:47 Actions, Outcome,…
  • 6:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Do you trust someone with your life? Do you trust that same person with your bank account number? Trust is a difficult word to define as you will learn in this lesson. That's because it involves a lot of key elements that share a very intricate relationship.

Trust: A Difficult Definition

Trust is a word you and I use on a very frequent basis. Although it's a well-known and often used term, its true definition is very difficult to attain because the definition can vary from scenario to scenario. For instance, you may trust your mother with your life, but not with a dirty little secret, while you'll entrust this same secret to a friend who you'd never trust with your life. Therefore, this lesson will attempt to highlight for you the overarching aspects of what trust is and what key elements it includes.

The Definition of Trust

Trust, from an interpersonal perspective, is a confident and calm reliance upon another party's perceived characteristics and predicted actions, such that those characteristics and actions are expected to bring about a probable outcome, despite this future outcome's actual uncertainty and a lack of control of the other party. That's a tough definition, but encompasses several critical elements we have to discuss more in detail.

The Parties Involved

Let's break things down step by step. The first part of our definition of trust reads, 'a confident and calm reliance upon another party's…' etc. The key word is party. This isn't a birthday bash we're talking about, it's a word that hints at the individuals or groups of individuals involved. You can trust one other person or a group of people, groups of people can trust other groups of people, and so on down the line.

Hence, the first element of trust is the parties involved. We have two main parties in this context. The first is the trustor, the person that trusts someone else, the person doing the trusting. Let's say it's you. You are the trustor. You want to whisper an important secret or request into your friend's ear. The person being entrusted is the trustee. In our case, the trustee is your friend.

The Characteristics

Okay, now we know what the parties are in our definition of trust, so let's keep moving. The definition of trust goes on to say, 'a confident and calm reliance upon another party's perceived characteristics…' What are those characteristics? We're saying that you are confident and calm in telling your friend this secret because of their characteristics. These include things like their:

  • Integrity
  • Ability
  • Behavior (past and present)
  • Strength, be it physical, mental, or emotional
  • Intellect
  • Role in society, meaning you may not know who that police officer is, but you trust them when you're in danger.

If your friend behaved in a way that made you think they are a blabbermouth, that wouldn't do much for their integrity, so you probably wouldn't trust them. But you wouldn't trust a person with high integrity and decent behavior with lifting a car off of your chest in an accident. Not unless they're the world's strongest man! Neither would you trust a smaller sibling with helping you in calculus if they haven't even finished grade-school. My examples are extreme, but they're there to prove a point about the nuanced nature of trust and situations involving trust and characteristics.

For us, let's say you think your friend has high integrity and based on their past behavior you are confident and calm in telling them this secret. You also think they'll be strong enough not to crack under police interrogation if they're caught and smart and able enough to avoid capture in the first place! Your secret is surely safe with them so you whisper it into their ear.

Actions, Outcome, Uncertainty, & Control

But, it's actually not safe. You see, once you spill the beans into their ear (sorry for the bad metaphor there), you must consider the rest of our definition of trust. Let's repeat this entire definition again: a confident and calm reliance upon another party's perceived characteristics (we got that part down) and predicted actions such that those characteristics and actions are expected to bring about a probable outcome, despite this future outcome's actual uncertainty and a lack of control of the other party.

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