Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Costs of Low Trust at Work and at Home

“Our distrust is very expensive.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bestselling author, Stephen M.R. Covey, wrote a wonderful book called The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. An M.B.A., business consultant, and CEO of FranklinCovey, Mr. Covey unapologetically talks about the importance of trust in a business context. He takes on the myths that trust is a soft topic and is too risky and potentially costly for businesses.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Among the multiple costs of low trust in business are speed and efficiency decrease, taking productivity in the same direction. Thereby, costs increase, as does corporate sabotage. Teamwork to produce high quality products is diminished and is replaced by covert cooperation to create a negative culture.

Yes, Covey acknowledges, there is a risk in trusting people. But clearly, there’s an even greater risk in not trusting. Covey refers to this as “the low trust tax.”

How do these concepts map over to personal relationships?

There are typical makers of low trust marriages, such as extramarital affairs, constant conflict, stonewalling and general lack of cooperation on matters that should be faced jointly. But there are more subtle indicators of low trust relationships as well.

In low trust marriages, people don’t disclose important information. While they may readily offer up the mundane parts of their day and of their existence, they withhold the important and real stuff: their hopes, dreams, fears and feelings.

Little wonder these people become bored with each other and with living like roommates, or detached siblings, or their children’s chauffeurs. Being lovers and confidants who have each other’s backs eludes them completely.

With each passing month, the alienation grows, taking on a life of its own until one or both spouses scream, “Uncle! I can’t take it anymore!”

Now their pain provides a prime opportunity for the couple. Yes, you read that correctly. An opportunity is created by admitting there is a problem, before it’s too late and the emotional cancer has metastasized too far, and the walls are too high and too thick, and the numbness has crept in so thoroughly that there is no longer any will to work to change. These are the more subtle, insidious aspects of a low-trust relationship that too often make those marriages a statistic.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to join the ranks of, as the nineteenth century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men [who] lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Each of us gets to choose.

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