Truth versus Trust

Truth and Trust are two legitimate ways of influencing people (in addition to rightful authority, etc). The first appeals to reason, what is true and the object’s own mind, experiences and processes which they trust. The second appeals to relationship and the object’s past experience with the subject and esteem for the subject, whether or not the subject has had the object’s best interests at heart or whether or not the subject’s advice was good.

These two poles of influence correlate with two poles of communication: low context and high context.

In low context communication, everything can be clearly known from the words spoken themselves–precise, complete and explicit (much like Java). In contrast, high context communication is very succinct because it is full of shared meanings that were formed by a long history of shared experience (maybe like Perl) such that the words themselves are difficult to decipher without the context. Within either type of communication, a person can influence others through Truth or Trust (or both).

Those who live in low context cultures are prone to lean heavily on truth and reason and clear articulations of why the person should do what they want them to do and why the chosen course of action is in the best interests of everyone. Those who live in high context cultures lean heavily on trust and the assumption that the influencer knows what he is talking about and that even though the influenced does not have a complete understanding, he does not need to know everything, but can follow the advice of the influencer since it has worked in the past.

We can also invert the causality: those who are skilled in logic and rhetoric would prefer appealing to Truth to persuade others and would thus succeed in a low context culture whereas those who are skilled in relationships would prefer appealing to Trust to persuade others and would thus succeed in high context cultures.

These two are not mutually exclusive, but in fact go hand in hand like the unity of grace and truth that is in Jesus Christ. Truth is best communicated when there is Trust because the influenced may doubt the Truth (though it may have impeccable logic) and assume some sleight of hand is involved in the reasoning because the influencer may not have the best interests of the influenced at heart. Truth also reinforces Trust because a trustworthy person is one who consistently tells the Truth. Trust would be ruined if a person fails to tell the Truth. 

What the distinction between Truth and Trust enables one to do is begin the process of truth-telling and trust-building in the proper order for the proper context. If you are communicating with a person who prefers Truth, influence them by appealing to reason. If you are communicating with a person who prefers Trust, influence them by showing that you have their best interests at heart. If you want to influence someone from a low context culture, clearly and precisely state the Truth. If you want to influence someone from a high context culture, take the time to be with them a lot so they know they can Trust you.

By beginning with the right foot forward, you can start a virtuous cycle where Truth and Trust reinforce each other in Love to others. And if you operate as a team, let each person play to their strengths and blaze the relational, truth-telling trail for others.

Published by

Chris Lim

I'm the founder of TheoTech (www.theotech.org), a company activating a movement of Technology Entrepreneurship for the Gospel. This means beginning with God as the Customer and working backwards to invent products that deliver outcomes He desires. I created Ceaseless (ceaselessprayer.com) and SPF.IO (spf.io) as two examples of this principle in action. I'd love to connect if you're passionate about using the best business and technology have to offer to advance God's Kingdom.

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