Trust And Betrayal

Trust And Betrayal

Trust and betrayal are two sides of the same coin. Both are essential for us to develop as independent and functional human beings who experience life in all its diversity.


Once upon a time, there lived a frog in a pond. A scorpion approached the frog and asked if he would be ready to ferry him across the pond. The frog replied that he could, but he was worried that the scorpion may sting and kill him. The scorpion assured him that he would not, since if he did then the frog would die and the scorpion would drown. The frog hesitated, but in the end, understood the logic and agreed to carry the scorpion across the pond. Midway, the scorpion bit the frog. The frog, in the throes of pain and death, asked the scorpion why he did this, to which the scorpion replied, “It is my nature”


Was the frog wrong for having trusted the scorpion? Is selfpreservation not sufficient motivation for the scorpion to keep his word? If it is the scorpion’s nature to bite, does that mean that he did not have a choice? So, what are the lessons derived that is related to human behaviour, especially in an organisational context?


The dimensions of Trust


Trust is a fundamental value that underpins all our relationships. We cannot go through life without trust. If we were to mistrust everyone around us, it would be impossible for us to make progress in any situation. It is, therefore, obvious that we need to understand what trust is, how it is built, things that can break trust, and then, explore the other side of the coin – betrayal.


What is betrayal? Is all betrayal bad? How do we respond to betrayal?


Trust is the outcome of one’s belief that he/she can rely on the intentions of the other person. It is a positive feeling which triggers the release of Oxytocin in the human body. Oxytocin is a hormone that contributes to a sense of well-being and happiness within us. By its very nature, then, we would want to experience trust – us placing trust on others and others trusting us. Tomes have been written on “Trust” and some very important dimensions of trust have been examined below.


1. One of the most important dimensions of trust is the consistency of actions related to words. Trust is built when actions match words.


2. Consistency of actions and words demonstrated over a long period of time develops trust.


3. Ability to address difficult topics and bring them to the fore nurtures trust. Open and direct communication has a bearing on how people perceive the trustworthiness of another.


Here, one needs to pause and ponder– is there anything known as absolute trust? Upon reflection, it becomes clear that barring trust in a higher power (some have termed this power as God or Almighty), trust is contextual. For instance, I can trust my colleague to deliver the result on time, but may not trust him or her to deliver this result without errors. I can always trust my employee to deliver a top-notch presentation except when under pressure.


Betrayal: Essential for one’s development


What happens when one’s trust is broken? When we experience the disappointment of mismatched actions and words, we feel betrayed, sad and angry. In common parlance, betrayal or disappointment has a strong negative connotation attached to it. One must, however, accept that this is an intrinsic part of our lives. I can say with a fair degree of confidence that nobody would have gone through life without having had to face disappointment and betrayal. Trust and betrayal are two sides of the same coin. Both are essential for us to develop as independent and functional human beings who experience life in all its diversity.


Yes, betrayal is needed for one’s development. When one is let down and experiences a loss of trust, one is often jolted to explore one’s agency. One is forced to look at what one must do to retrieve the situation. The improvisations needed to ensure that we can still somehow manage the result to an acceptable outcome is essential. Imagine that your employee has let you down by not submitting the report that was to be submitted to the Board. You would then have a choice to make – give up by defaulting on your commitment to the Board or accessing your inner resources to salvage the situation. A winner, after having overcome the immediate and obvious disappointment, would then probably burn the midnight oil and manage to churn out a respectable output. Such a manner of accessing of personal agency can be immensely liberating as it instils a sense of confidence, assurance, and accomplishment, which then releases Dopamine - another hormone that promotes a sense of well-being. It is ironical yet true that a seemingly negative feeling can finally generate a sense of happiness, provided we make the right choice.


The 3 dimensions of betrayal


Betrayal, like its twin Trust, must be looked through the prism of the three dimensions –


1. Betrayal, like trust, is contextual and one needs to look at the consistency of actions and words. The dimensions of the gap need to be assessed objectively. There could be an explanation, extenuating circumstances which could have led to the gap. One can do oneself a favour by not jumping into conclusions, since, by doing so, one could end up judging another in a negative sense, thereby, leading to a long-time relationship being lost in an instant.


2. The other aspect is time. Is it a frequent occurrence that this person has been a source of unmet commitments? One needs to look for patterns and then decide which inference one wants to adopt.


3. Communication could be a root cause of the feeling of disappointment or betrayal. Have we communicated our expectations clearly? Could there have been a chance for misinterpretation? Open and direct communication is a great remedy to the malaise of disappointment.


One needs to accept betrayal with the same openness as we accept Trust. One cannot exist without the other. Betrayal is a possibility every time we place Trust, which means that it looms in all our trustful transactions. One needs to accept this as one moves ahead with trust. And then the possibility of Betrayal lends meaning to Trust.


The story of the frog and the scorpion demonstrates that there could be occasions where one acts in a way that betrays the other person’s trust even if it defies the logic of apparent self-preservation. I would venture to say that most of us have acted like the scorpion at some point in our lives. The frog and the scorpion both reside within us. We can choose to be the frog or the scorpion – the frog who trusts with the awareness of possible betrayal or the scorpion who remains true to his nature while accepting the consequences of betrayal.


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Ashish Pradhan is President, Siegwerk India & Greater China. He comes with over 25 years of experience in the Packaging industry and has worked in Huhtamaki, Positive packaging, Henkel, and International Paper. Ashish is a Mechanical Engineer with a Management Degree and holds a Diploma in International Trade from the Indian Institute of Materials Management and a Diploma in Packaging from the Institute of Packaging, UK.


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