Monday, December 07, 2009

Trust and Knowledge

An acquaintance commented to me once that there was some kind of trust lacking between another friend and I. She and I seemed to take an entirely different stance to this idea of trust.

The acquaintance said that trust was the idea of sharing, just sharing between two parties and belief in the other party to accept and take in whatever you say. I end up on the opposite spectrum compared to her in that I never talk about myself to others without absolute necessity. Along her line of logic, I would conclude that I trust people purely out of complete necessity and that I pretty much don't trust anyone at all.

I wonder something at this point. Does trust necessitate knowledge of a person? I would prefer a division between the two.

The overused statement "Why can't you tell me this? Don't you trust me?" serves as a very telling sign of the seemingly strong link between trust and knowledge of another person - the lack of one suggests the lack of the other. After all, talking to someone about issues personal to yourself is generally a strong sign of trust in the other - to view it objectively, you just gave information which can be used to blackmail yourself in the future, or used to betray and play on your emotions. That you give another the chance to do so has the implicit meaning that you believe he or she would not do this.

Going the other way round, if you don't share anything personal about yourself to others, it gives the impression that you're walling yourself from others and dare not entertain the thought of emotional betrayal. You do not trust the other party, simply put. It's a simple and clear link between the two. Surely, therefore, someone like me who shares so little with others could not possibly trust any of his friends!

Yet, by this exact same line of logic, you trust the people who stalk your facebook account. You trust the strangers who read your blog. You trust the readers of your articles.

You cannot say it is an involuntary giving of information - it is public domain and you should be perfectly aware of that (in fact, it's usually one of the more important reasons as to why you start a blog or write an article) You cannot say that it is an unintended audience - they are on your friendslist on facebook, and they are part of your readership on a blog or a newspaper. And obviously you would not say that you trust every man who stalks your facebook account, reads your blog and your articles. Therefore, knowledge isn't exactly a sufficient condition for trust.

Furthermore, the first definition of 'trust' on google (ultimate pandering to authority meh) goes as such: "have confidence or faith in", stating confidence or faith in another as a prerequisite for trust.

Why do you have confidence in someone? Because you know from previous experience that he or she will do something and do it in a particular way. This can be based off anything - past occurrences, personality, competence, but it is essentially an extrapolation of past experiences and basing that to give a particular conclusion about someone that you can trust. Knowledge is certainly important in this aspect.

Why do you have faith in someone, then? Because you do not have any logical reasoning to support your opinion that he or she will do something and do it in a particular way. The face of certainty without reasoning is one of faith, and is present in the absence of knowledge of the other party.

A simple conclusion then goes - knowledge of another person is neither a sufficient condition for trust, nor a necessary condition for trust. As commonly used a benchmark it is, it isn't the only one around.

All this said, then, begs a question: Why don't you tell other people about yourself, then? If you have reason to withold your personal life from another, is it not a sign of distrust? After all, I never did shoot down the argument that hiding stuff from another person was a sign of distrust. And indeed, that was the question asked to me in my conversation. The answer I gave was short, and perhaps needs elaboration. It was "because I didn't see the need to".

In my prior arguments I might give the impression that telling personal stuff to someone isn't a sign of trust. I don't stand by that and I do believe it is a sign of trust, but for other reasons. Talking about oneself tends to be an act of relief, a removal of a burden or an emotional cleansing. That you trust another person not to add another burden to you is the sign of trust between you and him, not the fact that you entrust him with personal worries and burdens.

It goes, then, that if I have no particular need to relieve myself of any emotional burdens I have (simply because I am not so burdened by them in the first place), there is no actual reason why I would talk to others about myself. They are - to put it rather bluntly - irrelevant to my worries, and asking them to listen to me at times adds a burden on them without actually making myself feel better at all. Rather illogical situation, wouldn't you say?

Furthermore, I do not believe that my keeping things to myself has caused others to distrust me as a result. I have good friends who say that they don't know me very much at all, and I believe with certainty that they trust me all the same. Likewise, I trust them regardless of how much they tell me about their own lives. It is a form of trust that borders more on faith than confidence, but I am perfectly fine with it. Does telling them about myself improve my relationship with them? Perhaps - they know a different side of me, they might think differently about me. But I'm still me to them; I'm not another person altogether and they won't trust me more or trust me less if I told other people about myself. It's a rather unnecessary action that I don't see any need to fulfill on my own.

I have some friends whom I share personal stuff with. I trust them.
I have friends whom I don't share personal stuff with. I trust them all the same.

And hopefully, the opposite is just as true.

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