Trust is about power

This is the fourth in a series of posts from hand-picked guest bloggers about trust. The idea was kicked off by me rewatching Game of Thrones and thinking about its twin themes of power and trust.  

My fourth guest blogger is Sukh Pabial, who I  first met on Twitter when I was an L&D consultant. Sukh is a L&Der as well, and we have formed a collegiate friendship via Twitter. I have even guest blogged for him on his blog Thinking About Learning, and thought he was a perfect candidate for writing about trust. You can find Sukh on Twitter as @naturalgrump, but he is the least grumpy person I know. And very, very wise.


I find trust to be an interesting topic. It’s fraught with so many definitions, expectations, and desires that it’s a bloody minefield to navigate well. What’s worse is, the emotions that come attached with it. I like to be trusted; it helps me to be a nice human being. I hate breaking trust, I feel like a lowly slug that should be squished and have my guts splattered everywhere.

So let’s think about trust from a different perspective, which I hope will give another set of complications to think about. Trust is about power.

We all have power in this world, and we wield this power in different ways. Some are good at influencing, others are good at sales, some are good at strategy, and others are good leaders. In all these cases, these people have found a power they hold, and use it to their advantage. And in doing so, they also create a trusting bond. If you are the recipient of the above, you will expect that their world is held true, and you agree – implicitly – to share your power with them.

When I agree to take the phone call “Hello, Mr Pabial, I’m calling about your gas bill, can I have five minutes of your time?”, I’m agreeing to giving you my power for that time. What you do with it is where the balance either tips in your favour or not. If we reach an accord, an interesting thing happens. Both our levels of power increase.  I feel more in control of my life and finances because of a decision you have helped me to make. You feel more in power because you have completed a successful transaction that gives you a monetary reward as well as boosting your self-confidence and esteem. My trust in you is elevated, I feel like I’ve gained something and this is a mutually beneficial relationship.

I will perform wonders with my trust. I will sing your praises, I will recommend you to others, I will stay loyal to you for a long time, and basically be your friend. Because I have shared power with you, that makes me feel my trust in you was well placed.

But if it goes wrong, the power goes all skew-whiff. I resent you taking my time and that I shared my power with you. I gave you an opportunity to raise us both, and it was cast aside like a cheap hotdog with bad ketchup. The power I was in control of is now beyond my reach because of this bad event. Your power is also taken from you. You don’t make the sale, you don’t make me glad to have been part of this call, and your power is diminished for this poor event.

I will also perform wonders with my trust when you break it. I will actively discourage others from using your service. With social media, I can make my voice heard by the masses and you will have to respond to me. I will move my service to someone else and you will lose my custom. I will be angry I shared my power with you to lose my trust in you.

So, what will you do with my power when you ask for it?

4 thoughts on “Trust is about power

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. The balance between the two are delicate and needs to judged and monitored at all times.. We can experience an untrustworthy person but that doesn’t mean we are part of the same clan. We can remove ourselves from the situation and stay separate and apart.

    If we are the offender we then will live with he consequences.

    Nay one’s power, yours included, is valuable. I had a minute of your power I would be your friend and work to not disappoint.

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