Why do we trust people we perceive to be similar to ourselves? Surprisingly, the answers are simple. Trust between people is based on the perception that efforts between the parties will be reciprocated, reactions will be predictable, and members of the organization will least likely be faced with situations in which they are unprepared. The desire for security is a key motivator in developing trusting relationships in an organization.
Perception People tend to more readily accept those who have similar backgrounds and common life elements with which they can identify. We think those similar to ourselves will react to a situation in a predictable manner. People want to appear consistent in their behavior, and respond to others who appear consistent. According to a Baylor University Academic Journal, “trust is based on a perception of the probability that other agents will behave in a way that is expected (Gambetta, 198” (Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, July 2006).
Persuasion is how we are influenced to trust based on our environment and life experiences. The persuasion to trust a person can be brought about by our peers, our needs, and the availability of opportunities which support our way of life. Persuasion motivates us to accept and trust people, ideas, principles, faiths, and respect authority.
According to Robert Cialdini(1), there are six characteristics of human nature which come into play to bring forth a favorable response in persuasion. These are “reciprocation, consistency, social validation, liking, authority, and scarcity.” These elements will either positively or negatively influence a person to make a decision about trusting someone they have just met, and understanding the effects of persuasion can improve relationships within an organization.
Someone who has not gained our trust may seem like a wild card, and when gaging the successful outcome we hope the deck is stacked in our favor. This fear of failure allows us to justify exclusions within the workplace, even if we know the exclusions are unfair or wrong. If we have to share responsibility for the outcome of a project, we want to give ourselves every advantage possible.
Gender, age, and physical attributes are just a few sources of distrust. People can feel threatened by these differences, even if they have nothing to do with the performance of the worker in question. This is why is it vital for the organization to have a powerful, respected and established authority, because when in doubt, members of the organization will trust those they respect. “[Authority] can build trust by signaling the other's trustworthiness and reducing the inequality of exchange.” (2)
The motivation of security People trust those similar to themselves because of fear and insecurity, the thought of facing situations they aren't prepared for, and reducing risk in their lives. From this, we can see that the goal of surrounding ourselves with those we trust is to establish the strongest network of support so our trepidation is met with confidence when faced with daunting tasks. People want security, and find security in things they know and understand.
Persuasion is partly based on ideas people have already accepted, and furthered by the probability of gaining more security. Sometimes, this limits our ability to explore new ideas and possibilities because we want to control risk. Trust is a risk taking experience, but so is repeated acceptance of subjective persuasion without considering the benefits of unexplored options.
Understanding why people trust those similar to themselves can help distinguish biased or prejudiced judgments from valid concerns. The ability of people to communicate reasonable concerns or apprehension to the organization can avert obstacles in the completion of projects, and strengthen team member relationships.
((A. G. Koepcke))