An Atmosphere of Trust

Building trust is an important part of resolving our differences.  If we look at our organization’s history and we have had problems in the past with broken promises, double dealing, or aggression, it is no wonder when it comes time to erase conflict that we end up with intractable situations.  If there is something we can do before things go wrong, it is to build a trustworthy relationship with anyone we must encounter as part of our job, and also as a community member.

We cannot wait until things go bad to start building trust with the people we oppose, nor with the people we work for, or the people who influence our opposition.  This is a concept that troubles me about labor relations and for some reason, doesn’t seem to fully sink in.  We can’t expect that when things go sour that anyone will listen to us; they automatically assume your viewpoint is affected by the current situation.  To them, you are trying to influence their opinion.  Well, we are.  So don’t be upset if you get called on it.  They weren’t important enough for you to build a positive relationship with before and now all of the sudden you want to be best buds?

When things are good we must be out there getting our message across, regardless of what side of the equation you happen to be.  Hopefully you are on the “right” side of the argument and working to improve the entire situation, not just advance your agenda.  But in any case, our marketing efforts are just what they are: education.  We are educating people as to what it is we do, what we expect, and how they can help.  That is marketing.  We want these people on OUR side.  What’s more, if they are firmly in your corner, they will even do the work you need done to convince the opposition that they are opposing the desired values.

In the cases with labor engaging the community, it results in voters telling the elected officials that they like the service they are getting and not to mess with their friends down at the station.  In the case with management doing this, it shows that we care about what the community thinks and we are reaching out to them to provide the best service possible.  But regardless, we need to get the word out, we have to develop those relationships, and in doing so, people identify with you and are more reluctant to oppose you.  And even when they do, it is more likely going to be a case where they take you aside as not to embarrass you rather than in the media.

So many “leaders” fail to do this.  They assume everyone will see their side of the argument and that they don’t need to develop those associations.  That kind of thinking will do your side in every time.

Those relationships have to be with the people you oppose as well, so that you can avoid intractability to begin with.  People don’t choose the nuclear option against people they like and respect, unless they are sociopaths, of course.  Therefore, we have to treat others like we would want them to treat us, which seems like a logical thing to do anyway.  How could we expect to be treated fairly if we aren’t being fair ourselves?

It is unreasonable to expect people to successfully cooperate if they don’t have some sort of agreed-upon moral foundation which identifies what values we must enforce and for resolving status conflicts.  We have to agree on what the limits are on what we can expect from the other parties, and we have to communicate and work with our common values, as those are the foundation on which we will build the relationship.

Trust requires us to tolerate a certain amount of diversity, understanding that people are different yet those differences don’t necessarily indicate someone is untrustworthy.  We may not agree with their values, but we have to trust that when our belief systems challenge fundamental human rights, we must draw a line and challenge those ideas and actions.

We cannot think for a moment that any efforts to reach out are going to be accepted with anything but scorn if we don’t work ahead of time to show we mean what we say and we say what we mean.  Join us tomorrow for another segment on this discussion.

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