The Role of Communication and Institutions

Building trust requires conscious efforts in both communication and institutional settings. By aligning our words with our actions, treating others as equals, and fostering trust in institutions, we create a climate of trust that promotes collaboration, resolves conflicts, and nurtures positive social connections. Effective communication and trusted institutions form the pillars upon which a trustworthy and cohesive society can thrive.

Josh Ether

11/8/20192 min read

Trust is a crucial component of successful relationships and societal harmony. In this article, we will delve into the significance of effective communication and the role of institutions in building trust. By aligning our words with our actions and understanding the impact of language, seating arrangements, and institutional trust, we can create a foundation of trust that fosters collaboration, resolves conflicts, and promotes positive social interactions.

Communication: Words and Deeds

Effective communication requires consistency between our words and deeds. An illustrative example occurred in 2008 when the CEOs of the three major American car manufacturers sought federal loans in Washington, D.C. However, their request for financial assistance clashed with their choice to fly separately on corporate jets, creating a perceived incongruity. Recognizing this, on their subsequent visit, the CEOs traveled in hybrid vehicles, aligning their actions with their words of financial need. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that our actions match our verbal expressions to instill trust in others.

Communicating as Equals

An often-overlooked aspect of communication is the importance of treating others as equals. This entails showing respect for others' time, minimizing visible differences such as seating arrangements and attire, and using inclusive language. Studies conducted by Varda Liberman have shown that the choice of words significantly impacts cooperation and trust. By framing interactions as partnerships rather than competitions, or referring to colleagues as team members rather than mere employees, we cultivate a mindset that encourages collaboration and fosters trust. Additionally, seating arrangements that place individuals on the same side of the table convey a shared commitment to tackle challenges together, enhancing trust among participants.

The Role of Institutions

Institutions play a vital role in trust-building. One example is the legal system, which relies on the trust of individuals in its fairness and impartiality. However, trust in institutions varies across societies. Consider the case of Alton Logan, wrongfully convicted for a 1982 shooting in Chicago. Despite Andrew Wilson, the actual perpetrator, confessing to his attorneys, they were bound by attorney-client privilege and couldn't disclose the information. Alton Logan remained imprisoned for 26 years until Andrew Wilson's death, when the attorneys finally revealed the truth. Alton's aunt, displaying remarkable reverence for the institution, acknowledged that the lawyers did what they had to do to uphold the principles of attorney-client privilege. This story underscores the significance of institutions in maintaining trust, even when it entails personal sacrifices.

Gossip and Reputation Systems

Gossip, often associated with negativity, also serves a purpose in shaping social norms and managing reputations. It helps communicate expected behaviors and fosters a sense of trust within communities. With the advent of the digital age, reputation systems have formalized the role of gossip. Platforms like Airbnb, Uber, and eBay rely on user ratings to establish trust among strangers. These systems allow users to make informed decisions about engaging in transactions or interactions based on the experiences and reputations of others. By leveraging reputation systems, these platforms have successfully addressed trust issues, enabling strangers to share homes, ride in cars, and engage in online commerce with confidence.