The TV show Survivor is a fascinating microcosm of real life. This spring, I took to analyzing the first six seasons of the show, all aired about 15 years ago. (This autumn CBS will roll out the 40th season, I believe it is.)
The purpose was to discover the factors that players in the game use to decide who to trust or not trust.
It’s a simple game.
16 people are marooned on a desolate island then divided in two separate teams. The players on each team are working cooperatively in sub-games (challenges) that are played twice weekly, once for a reward (generally something related to survival or food) and once for team immunity meaning no on that team can be voted off the island. Every third day, a meeting is held where someone is anonymously voted off the island. About half way through the 39 day experience, the two teams merge into one and the game becomes an individual game where the two challenges each week are individually based instead of team based. The winner of the second micro-game each week wins is protected from being voted off the island. The final two players that remain are then voted on by the previous seven players that were voted off.
The winner gets a million dollars. The second place player gets $100,000.
There’s more to the game but if you are unfamiliar that’s all you need for now.
Who wins this microcosmic game of life?
Generally there are different characteristics of people who are successful and “go far into the game” vs. those who actually WIN the game.
People who actually win are the people who were trusted by other players while at the same time being the least threatening player who could defeat them in the final pairing.
Retrospectively the jurors who decide who will win the million come to recognize that those people they trusted were in fact typically not as trustworthy as they previously thought. Nevertheless, the player who was most trusted and perceived as the least threatening to others most often won.
There are some other characteristics of winners as well. They tend to be weaker players who teamed up with a stronger player for most of the game. The weaker player goes further than you’d like to see and often wins because often enough the jurors seek revenge against a player that could win but whom they refuse to vote for as they don’t want that person to win the million dollars, sometimes because they don’t deserve it, they were disliked, or (interestingly) they are seen as not needing the prize money as much as the other player. We’ll talk about these sub-characteristics at a later date as they give us much to think about for our everyday lives.
For the moment let’s go with what you want to adopt today.
1. You want to be the most trusted person others know.
2. You want to be the least threatening toward each individual to the majority of people you are in business with, a relationship with, etc.
Clearly, trust is a currency in life which is filled with daily cooperative and non-cooperative “games.” You have to be trusted by others or you don’t ultimately win in the game of life.
If you don’t have their trust, you blow yourself out of the water.
Trust is crucial for influence.
Trust is crucial for one on one persuasion.
Trust most often is the difference between yes and no.
Key Point: A lot of people aren’t trusted because of how they look or speak. They appear threatening in some way.
It’s sad as can be, but some people just don’t look trustworthy or behave in a trustworthy manner, even though they are absolutely trustworthy in reality.
People typically judge trustworthiness in individuals using their gut reaction as an instant as “yes” or “no” when they see someone. The criteria? Their physical appearance, the normalcy of their behaviors and their body language.
Getting past those instant appearances brings on a new criteria. At this point, a lot of people are trusted or not because of their track record.
Their track record, like a team’s Win/Loss record in sports isn’t a guarantor of future results, but it is a yardstick.
If the track record isn’t so hot, THEN what do you do?
Well, I did some digging…
We were talking about trust and decisions and selling at Influence Boot Camp 2015 in Las Vegas. I had a “hunch” and then I pulled out the research….
Check this out…
You can develop trust where it didn’t exist before.
You can be seen as trustworthy, believable and make it a LOT easier for people to buy you, your services, and so on.
Here’s what you do…
Become the Person People Trust by Nature
You’ve no doubt heard of the adage,
“If you want something done, give the project to the busiest person.”
That or something like it, has been around for as long as anyone can remember.
Now, why is that?
It would seem more sensible to give the project to someone who had nothing to do…wouldn’t it?
I mean think about it.
You have one person exhausted from overwork in the State of Overwhelm and another person doing nothing in the State of Yawn.
And the “rule of thumb” is to give “it” to the overwhelmed person.
It does initially seem crazy…after all, the person who is not busy has nothing to do…they should be able to “knock it out,” with no problem.
Francesca Righetti and Catrin Finkenauer at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam were thinking about the same things you are. They did the research, starting with the basics.
The Three Aspects of Trust
Trust first means that you are going to be in an Interdependent Relationship of some kind with someone else. I can’t get X accomplished without you.
If the guy fails, X doesn’t get accomplished. Guy succeeds, X gets accomplished.
When people’s “interests” or “investments” are close to equal, they both are more likely to work toward X and risk is reduced.
When people’s interests or investments are out of alignment, then one person has much more to gain than the other person, and they are less likely to perform.
Finally, trust requires a situation where there is a clear Freedom of Choice. Holding a gun to someone’s head and having them perform is not about trust.
Those are the 3 basic aspects.
- Interdependent Relationship
- Freedom of Choice
Easy enough. Now what do YOU do with this?
Recipe for Trust
Begin with trust.
A study that just came out yesterday (July 2016) reveals that it is very easy for people to trust. It takes very few repetitions of positive behavior to establish trust with others.
But, on day one if you establish a reputation as a gossip, for example, it will take a LONG time to build trust. The hole that is dug takes a LONG time to get out of. So BEGIN with focused efforts on building trust. They WILL take hold and you WILL be trusted long term.
I’ve told this story before. It’s definitely worth revisiting…
Why is the “first impression” as far as trust is concerned so important?
You can probably chalk it up to evolution or to people being consistent with their behaviors.
For example… people who behave with kindness today, tend to replicate those behaviors tomorrow.
People who are jerks (acts of cruelty) today tend to replicate those behaviors tomorrow as well.
In other words, the picture you see is what is likely to replicate. People seem to intuit this.
Research released this week (July 29, 2016) bears this out to be true.
In autumn 2010, I lost my voice for a protracted period, for the third time in my life. It was pretty bad and I needed to have a very talented guest presenter, “substitute for me” at a gig. I was going to be there in person, but I was literally unable to do the gig. You can see photos of me on Facebook, at the event in Las Vegas, with a pad of paper and pen writing notes to my Event Manager, Ken Owens.
I really thought I could be in decent voice for the event but life had other plans.
I had to make a decision on who would pinch hit for me. It took a couple of days to do the trust math but I finally did and bought my trusted friend a ticket, got him a gorgeous hotel room, and put a few bucks in his bank account. In theory, that SHOULD mean I will have a great presenter taking my place, at the event.
Of course, the worst thing you can in businesses is not show up for your gig. That makes you someone no one wants to do business with. At the other end of the spectrum, it makes the person who “saves you,” a hero.
There was risk involved. I couldn’t present. It was not even possible. If he got sick, didn’t show up, the plane didn’t make it, if any of a thousand things happen…my audience loses and that means I really lose big.
So my good friend needs to show.
David had complete freedom of choice. If he gets an owie at the last moment, he can choose to not come. If he has a headache, wants to watch the World Series, has a last-second date with Jessica Alba, (and hell, who wouldn’t understand THAT) I mean, I’d “understand” but the trust in our relationship would vanish into thin air.
We debrief and he goes on in my place AND PERFORMS brilliantly.
Because if he just shows up and is simply, “pretty good,” I am out of luck with my audience.
My audience is expecting Kevin Hogan, so the pinch hitter needs to be blisteringly hot.
I have one way to Win and a thousand ways to Lose.
So my trust in David must be carefully calculated or I must make another choice.
It’s always a gamble. Every interdependent relationship in life is a gamble. There are no sure things.
So how does David EARN that trust? How is it that I GIVE David that trust?
Shoot, why David in the first place?
Trust and Decision Making
My thinking begins with…
- Who can do better than what I can do in a given area of expertise that my audience needs and wants?
- Of those people who will be there while turning down Jessica? i.e. who will weigh our future friendship and business association to be greater than Jessica? The answer to this of course is huge.
- Who will deliver come hell or high water. Who will be amazing?
Who will go the extra mile and have my people saying, “Kevin Who?” I came up with a decent number and selection of names because I know a bunch of great people.
I had to eliminate 80% of those people for various reasons.
I eliminated Deb because she saved me last year when my keynote speaker didn’t show at the last minute. Being Super Girl only should happen once every few years. The great thing about Deb is that when she found out that I had David save me, she was mildly irritated with me that I didn’t text her FIRST.
That’s how you know you have a “right person.”
My best solution was David.
He accepted the opportunity to save me.
Was I making the right decision?
What EVIDENCE did I have?
What Makes a Person Trustworthy?
Most people think of trustworthiness as a “character trait.”
And like most character “traits,” it really is not.
Someone who is trustworthy in your experience and mind is likely perceived differently by a number of people.
We trust people who we personally experience as dependable.
We trust people who we personally experience as the one who gets the job done.
We trust people who we personally experience as safe in a way that is important to us.
We also trust people we’ve never met because someone we do trust has told us that this new person is trustworthy!
That of course means the person believes the person has been trustworthy for and to THEM.
In baseball, trustworthiness is not about whether the person is safe to hold your wallet but who is most likely to perform in a given situation. The manager selects the person with the best track record to pinch hit in that critical moment.
Trust isn’t a trait, it’s a context dependent thermometer.
An excellent predictor of trust is a credit report which is easily accessible by banks, insurance companies and employers to objectively gauge someone’s level of trust.
You and I can’t pull a credit report on friends and family or even the people we do business with. And your clients and potential clients can pull yours.
This makes redemption possible for those who have habitually screwed up in trust situations in the past. It also means that trust is not easily measured or perceived in an accurate fashion.
First thing you want people to consider is their EXPERIENCE with you.
I’ve seen David work for my audiences before.
I’ve seen people like and learn from him on more than one occasion.
I’ve seen him be timely, intelligent, wise, loyal, effective.
Each of those things determines how much trust I have in David or someone like David as the context changes. In some contexts, intelligence doesn’t matter much. In others the whole ball game rests on it.
I’ve done JV’s with him and his company fulfills products in a timely fashion.
The breadth of his knowledge on what I wanted to have him present would allow him to speak for DAYS even though I only asked for 4 hours.
That’s not a LOT to base “trust” on, but it’s more than most people objectively have.
In truth, dependability (will they be on time, every time, i.e. are they PREDICTABLE) is a critical factor in who trust is assigned to by another. Which brings up back to the Amsterdam researchers who wrote, Trust and Self Control for The Journal of Personality.
Trust is NOT a one way street.
If you want someone’s trust, you must know that both people come into the ultimate equation of trust.
The trusting person, (me in this case) has to …first have the ABILITY to trust. That means the trusting person has to have the ability to influence.
…second have the BENEVOLENCE to trust. The trusting person has significant attachment to the trusted person.
There is a high degree of certainty in the friendship.
…third have the INTEGRITY to trust. This is my BELIEF that David/Deb have the integrity to come through regardless of that possible date with Kat Dennings. They have principles and values that are acceptable to me, the trusting person. In my mind, I have already declared them holy and I believe that my mind matters to them. That’s what I believe.
It could all be an illusion. I could easily be wrong. But you don’t put your event on the line with someone who is not holy in your mind. You can’t.
The Flip Side of Trust
On my side of the coin, it all comes down to their knowing my BELIEF they will perform brilliantly and I see their MOTIVATION as high, to act favorably toward me over other options.
Trustworthiness is not just about them. It’s about US.
Trusting that person means that I believe they will act MORE in my favor than Self Interest in reference to this event.
Are They Worthy?
Most people are worthy of trust by some people and not others.
SOME people are worthy of trust by most people. They are individuals who are focused on the opinions and beliefs of others while expecting a specific set of behaviors from themselves. They want to be predictable.
No one is worthy of trust by everyone in every context. Not even you and me and you and I are both more than a little attentive to the needs of others and the perception of ourselves in others!
Ultimate Decision Factor
The ultimate decision factor in whether I will TRUST that person is the same factor most people measure with.
No one is consciously aware of it, but people trust those who predictably exhibit self regulation.
If they can self regulate on your behalf and BECAUSE of you, they can very likely be trusted.
You and I have evolved to believe that the person who you have seen repel outside influences in favor of taking care of your best interest is the best choice to trust.
Trusting someone without behaviorally predictable self control is obviously dangerous.
When Jessica or Kat (that temptation) calls, I need to know David will still be in Las Vegas because he SAID he would.
That’s a lot of holy.
How to Be Afforded More Trust
The researchers in the study found that people who were observed as having achieved a goal, offered forgiveness or had been reliable were afforded more trust by most people.
We also know that you can only go to the well so many times in life. Jessica might be easy to brush off the first time, but the second?
Self Regulation means that when you observe a person and evaluate their trust in light of behaviors that showed self control the first time you are more likely to trust them than when Self Regulation Units are used up.
It’s human nature.
It’s a lot easier to say no to snacks early in the day than late at night. Everyone lives it. Everyone knows it.
Knowing all of this, I’m sure you are going to identify with the notion of not being a completely trusting individual!
The question is, “is that a smart choice?”
If trusting others is part of the trustworthiness equation in others it seems counter intuitive to not being trusting.
What’s the answer?
Should “Trust” Be In Your Vocabulary?
People with a great deal of real world experience with many people over many contexts tend to not be as trusting as people without real world experience in many different contexts.
People who travel don’t even bother putting the word trust in their vocabulary. The point is moot.
- Rental Car Company
- Hotel Event Staff
- Hotel Event Promoter
…and you have to ask?
Travelers, more than just about anyone, know that to trust is often similar to begging for a bad experience.
BUT, the research shows that if you don’t trust, the person won’t come through.
This doesn’t mean if you do trust they will, it just means that your odds increase.
Therefore, you trust…with a back up plan.
Key to Trust
So WHO do you and I trust, for real?!
The results of research show that you and I will trust people who SELF REGULATE.
If you want people to trust YOU, then you better start Self Regulating NOW.
You are the person who gets stuff done, always makes it happen, is there in the clutch.
That image is not maintainable except by the person who actually Self Regulates. And as we have often discussed, most people don’t self regulate well or wisely.
Getting people to trust you is a function of causing people to see you as someone who self regulates.
Now let your imagination run wild and figure out how they are going to see you say NO to Jessica and Kat when you are supposed to be at Boot Camp.
David, in retrospect wasn’t the right choice, he was the obvious choice.
You want to have as many people like David Garfinkel and Deb Cole in your life as you can.
And you want to be able to show your public that YOU are (like) David and Deb and that YOU come through in spite of stiff competition when real life arises.