Tag Archives: commentary

Trust: A new thought for relationships

Familiarity breeds contempt.  [This quote manifested itself as I completed writing the blog post below.  It belongs here at the start, but I found humor in how I only had this “revelatory” moment after expressing fully the thought below.]

Trust is not about the truster believing in the other party.  Trust is evidently about being comfortable confronting the other party, perhaps even to the point of being downright aggravating.  If you are in a committed relationship, consider for a second: have you ever been in a heated discussion with your significant other and wished — or even suggested — she or he would talk to you the way they communicated disagreement with less-trusted folks, like their co-workers?  Have you wished your boss would talk to you the way she or he talks to your customers when they disagree?  I know civility is losing ground to stress-induced verbal confrontation as a means of dialoging in the United States, but too many of us treat the people closest to us — those we need and trust the most — the worst.  We go well beyond “clear and effective communication” an approach contemptuous familiarity.


Recently, I have been involved in a number of discussions in which I expected a less-familiar conversant to challenge me more; and in a few others in which I expected a closely-acquainted conversant to find no reason for pause.  As the more distant person went to great lengths to be polite or respectful of my opinion, the dearer friend not only removed their gloves, but they swung away with no regard for how I might receive their harsh words.  And in both cases, my only deduction to explain causation is that TRUST HAPPENS.  As it does, the varnish of considerate communication seems to peel away to reveal a rawness that can be disconcerting.  You might find yourself wondering, “who is this person, and where is the guy/woman I thought I knew?”

As trust grows, conflict between two people, or within a group, seems to grow, not decrease.  I listen to many young people talk about relationships and how important it is that they “trust” the other person.  They mention it almost before they mention love.  I sit in meetings in which managers and leaders spend inordinate amounts of time figuring out how to increase trust between the customer and the organization.

And now, I have a different perspective on trust.  Gaining trust strengthens the relationship to the point where the engaged parties don’t use that trust to extend more latitude to the other.  Quite the opposite.  In our society, we use it like a weapon.  Now that you trust me, let me tell you how I really feel.  My wife, who knows me best, says I can be downright unrelenting sometimes.  And when she points it out, I find that I am not only communicating candidly, I am taking advantage of our trusting relationship to vent, blow off steam, unload about things that happen at work, during a really bad racquetball game, because I didn’t sleep well.  I haven’t cared or been more kind and generous BECAUSE of trust, I have instead forced her to accept the fury I might rather direct at others.  But . . . . then they won’t like me.  I trust that she still will, eventually.


Therefore, I am going to spend some time trying to offer a new level of candor from the outset of a relationship.  And I further expect that, as a result, fewer people will want trusting relationships with me.  But the relationships that prevail will be far more enjoyable because the most contentious opinions and ideas we might discuss will have been dealt with while the person is figuring me out.  I hope my wife and some of my closer associates notice!

Reversing my relationship management approach will mean I won’t be subject to, or use, the type of brutal directness that can come with “trust.”  Instead, the more seasoned my relationships become by time and shared experiences, the more harmonious they will become.

Does this ring true for you, or am I alone in recognizing that trust can create some funk in my strongest relationships?


Enlightened Hospitality

As promised, this is the first in a week-long series of reactions to the Danny Meyer book Setting the Table.

The first of his concepts I will address is, for me, the central theme of his book. By dealing with it first, you can better wrap your mind around the fundamental, but brilliant, observations about being in the business of taking care of people.

Meyer says enlightened hospitality begins with treating your colleagues right as a first priority (p. 109). While many people today have embraced the notion that the customer is always right, I agree with Meyer’s implication that customers are not always right, but that in order for a business to take care of its customers, it must first put the front line employees in a position to succeed.

Too often, staff are viewed as cogs in a machine; people whose opinions are marginalized, their strengths exploited with little recognition, and their weaknesses amplified obscenely. And yet we insist that these people put their best foot forward to present a united, positive image for the organization.

But Meyer makes a brilliant observation: customers will always be better served by an empowered, positive, motivated staff. Amen.

Enlightened hospitality goes beyond that, though. It extends to capture the spirit with which a great team of employees or service providers approaches serving the person or people in front of them. I like to call this the “one step forward” approach.

If every member of a team felt empowered and motivated, they would insist on always taking one step forward to meet their customer. Moreover, they would flex their observation muscles to determine how to address the person. They would use their trained empathy not to coddle the guest, but to ensure they handled their needs with the right amount and tone of intimacy, humor, speed and interactivity.

Once the employee is cared for, the customer is better served. Once the customer is best served, the succeeding priorities are serving the community, serving their suppliers, and finally, ultimately, serving investors.

Its a profound reversal of the type of corporate behavior that has crippled so many companies in the United States. It refutes the type of corporate behavior that leads to ethical and moral conflicts. Its a model for doing business that syncs with my own sense of propriety.

Look forward to the next chapter tomorrow. But first, let me know what you think about enlightened hospitality. Where does it fall apart? What is not well explained? Will this impact the way you approach your customers?

For excerpts from Meyer’s book, or to purchase (I get no benefit): visit