Blog >
Leadership Skills on Building Trust


Leadership Skills on Building Trust

Darryl Stickel shares an evergreen article that is designed to help leaders build trust by examining the role that our emotions play in our decisions to trust.

Both love and hate are blind. The vast majority of the existing literature on trust takes a rational actor perspective. That means the authors assume people are always reasonable and rational, and the work focuses on the cognitive process that takes place when we decide to trust someone. If you’ve ever dated someone or had children you are likely aware that people are not always rational. Not that there’s anything wrong with the great existing material on trust, it’s just incomplete. The result is that attempts to rebuild trust in situations that are emotionally charged are far less likely to be successful if you stick with the approaches you’ll most often read.

In this installment of the Trust Coach I will examine the role that our emotions play in our decisions to trust. When I wrote my doctoral thesis on building trust in hostile environments, I was interested in understanding why long-term disputes seemed so difficult to resolve. It likely seems obvious to most reading this as I point it out, but when people get emotional they tend not to be all that reasonable.

Long term disputes (think the Middle East, Native land claims, the Hatfields and McCoys, anyone and their ex) are often incredibly destructive to all parties involved. So much time and energy are invested in hating the other party and doing them harm. We tend to vilify the other party, which makes us feel ok doing things to them that we normally wouldn’t even consider. The example I’m going to use here is the US political system and the current run for presidential candidacy. The thoughts, however, are relevant for any groups that have a long term dispute and seem to dislike one another.

How We Interpret The World

The world is a complicated place, filled with complicated people. When faced with this complexity, we often use stories to help us interpret and understand the world and things that happen. My friend Fritz Mayer is a professor at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, and has done some great work on narrative and storytelling. His recent book (Narrative and Collective Action, 2014) details how stories play a central role in allowing communities and organizations to successfully engage in collective action.


Key points include:

  • Why trust matters in politics
  • Emotions in politics
  • Vicious cycles

Read the full article, Trust, Emotion and American Politics, on