|Earned Trust—More Precious than Gold|
|By Caterina Spinaris|
About the author: Caterina Spinaris Tudor, Ph.D., is the founding Director of Desert Waters Correctional Outreach (DWCO) and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Colorado. The mission of DWCO (www.desertwaters.com) is to increase the occupational, personal and family well-being of staff of all disciplines within the corrections profession.
Solid trust among corrections workers is an endangered species, infrequently witnessed and easily threatened with extinction. That is why earning and keeping coworkers’ trust is a major accomplishment and a priceless asset in corrections.
Surrounded by offenders, a population not known for honesty and integrity, staff end up leaning toward mistrust, the negative expectation that others may lie, manipulate, fake and exploit them any chance they get.
Often, after a formerly respected employee has been walked to the gate (or worse), I’ve heard staff lament that they never know who among their coworkers is “clean” or “dirty.” That does not inspire trust.
So, you might argue, why bother with trust? Why not stay holed up in our “mistrust bunker,” minding our own business and keeping everyone, including coworkers, at arm’s length? Doing that, you reason, could save staff much disappointment and heartache.
Yes and no. Caution is a good thing. A prejudice that no one is worthy of our trust or that trust is pointless are not. In fact, no correctional employee could show up to work without some degree of trust that coworkers would run to their aid if things went south.
Trusting one another acts both as relational glue and relational lubricant. Trust keeps people collaborating effectively. It helps us persevere and negotiate through difficulties and work through disagreements. Considering someone to be trustworthy motivates us to go the extra mile to help them. Trustworthy behavior increases good will and harmony.
Trust has a calming influence on people. It is a natural de-stressor, as it communicates a gut-level sense of security. If I know I can trust you—that you will not try to ridicule, exploit or hurt me, but that instead you care about my well-being—I can be transparent with you and receptive toward your feedback or interventions. Trust helps us lower our masks, be more honest and open, own our missteps, and receive correction. Trust is the basis for transactions, spoken and unspoken agreements, partnerships and alliances.
Some people (not many in corrections) trust everyone up front until they are let down. Others (many in corrections) trust just about no one, and will make you work hard to maybe earn a little of their trust. Yet others prefer to go on a case-by-case basis, observing each individual and weighing their degree of trustworthiness in various settings.
Trust needs to be earned, maintained and deepened over time. What kinds of behaviors inspire trust? Like an oak tree, wise, deserved trust grows over time.
We earn people’s trust when we:
The motivation to continue gaining and maintaining others’ trust stems from our valuing both our integrity and the greater good.
The fruit of acting in trustworthy ways is increased success and safety. Not surprisingly, there is also a priceless rise in self-respect. Our conscience commends us when we act according to our values.
No money can buy the satisfaction we enjoy when we live with dignity, consistently exhibiting dependability, fairness and truthfulness.
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