Trust-Building: Interdependence, Shared Goals, and Common Enemies

Trust-building is a multifaceted process influenced by interdependence, shared goals, and common enemies. Recognizing the power of these factors can help individuals, groups, and even nations cultivate trust and cooperation. By emphasizing interdependence, promoting shared objectives, and working towards common goals, we can foster an environment where trust thrives, leading to greater collaboration and collective achievements. Trust is the foundation upon which relationships, communities, and societies are built, and by actively nurturing it, we can forge a more harmonious and prosperous future.

Josh Ether

10/4/20192 min read

Trust is a fundamental aspect of human relationships and societal cohesion. Without trust, cooperation becomes challenging, and progress becomes hindered. Building trust is a complex process influenced by various factors. In this article, we will explore the importance of interdependence, shared goals, and common enemies in the trust-building process.

Interdependence and Trust

One key element that fosters trust is interdependence. When we rely on each other for mutual success or achievement, trust naturally emerges. Studies conducted by social psychologists have shown that even in the context of nominal groups, where individuals are randomly assigned to specific groups without any inherent meaning, people tend to favor and trust their in-group members over those from the out-group. This finding highlights the profound influence of group dynamics on trust. When we perceive ourselves as interdependent and share a common identity, we are more inclined to trust and cooperate with one another.

The Power of Common Goals

Shared goals play a significant role in trust-building. When individuals or groups have a common objective, it binds them together and creates a sense of purpose. A remarkable example of how common goals foster trust can be observed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pakistan and the United States, despite their differences, grew much closer due to their shared goal of combating terrorism. Previously misaligned countries, like Russia and France, also forged closer ties following attacks in the Middle East. Common enemies and shared objectives provide a rallying point that encourages collaboration, leading to increased trust and cooperation.

The Dynamics of Group Identity

Group identity profoundly influences our perception of trust and cooperation. Humans tend to form and identify with various groups, such as tribes, religions, or countries. Research conducted by Taya Cohen has revealed an intriguing aspect of group loyalty: the more loyal we are to our in-group members, the more accepting we become of violence against out-groups. This finding demonstrates the importance of understanding how our group affiliations shape our attitudes and behaviors towards others. By recognizing the potential biases that arise from group identity, we can strive for a more inclusive and empathetic approach to trust-building.

Shifting Alliances and Superordinate Goals

Throughout history, we have witnessed the formation of alliances and the shifting sands of competition between groups. These dynamics play a crucial role in trust-building. Consider the formation of the United States during the French and Indian War. Initially, the British used the colonists to fight against the French, creating a collective identity. However, during the American Revolutionary War, the colonists, led by George Washington, fought against the British. Surprisingly, the French, who had been adversaries just a few years earlier, joined forces with the colonists to oppose the British. This shift in alliances demonstrates how common enemies can foster the emergence of superordinate goals that unite diverse groups. By identifying a shared objective that transcends individual or group interests, trust can be strengthened and cooperation enhanced.