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David Hegg: communication and trust

Ethically Speaking

Posted: October 23, 2010 12:19 a.m.
Updated: October 24, 2010 4:30 a.m.

During my years in the corporate world, I learned a very good lesson: Communication breeds trust. A lack of communication tends to breed suspicion.

When I kept my boss informed, or even overinformed, he tended to give me more freedom.

When I kept things close to the vest, he tended to start wondering if things were going well. I think he still trusted me, but his trust seemed to be seasoned with a dash of suspicion.

It seems that the axiom holds true in personal relationships as well.

Where couples communicate frequently, trust abounds.

But silence over time too often contributes to growing suspicion. I’ve seen it time and time again, and just recently, I began wondering what this says about human nature.

Why is it that if clear information is lacking, we too often tend to think the worst?

Take the mundane example of the wife at home fixing a nice dinner with the expectation that her husband will be home at a specific time to enjoy it as a couple.

As the meal sits on the table getting cold, the imagination starts to run. Why didn’t he call? Doesn’t he care about me?

How can he be so selfish and thoughtless?

We’ve all been there, and some of us have had to swallow our pride when it turned out our spouse was stuck in traffic with a dead cell phone.

If we had known all the facts, we would have thought differently. But a lack of communication pushed suspicion to the front of the room.

Why is it that we most naturally run to negative interpretations of events if we lack information to the contrary? We see a child crying and rebelling in the market, and we rush to the opinion that his or her parents aren’t very good at parenting.

A car dashes by us, swerving in and out of traffic, and we are sure that the driver is a self-centered jerk with no regard for the safety of others.

A junior member of the office team strolls into an important meeting carrying a latte with a nonchalant air, and we are just sure that this entitled wunderkind has no appreciation for the team’s time or mission.

But what if the child carries the burden of a personality disorder that has actually been quite radically curbed by good parenting?

What if the driver of the car has just heard that his teenage daughter was in a terrible traffic accident?

And what if the young professional was left off the e-mail list and never notified that the meeting had been moved up 30 minutes?

If we put our heads together, we could probably come up with many more examples, but these will put us on the same track.

What is it about the human heart that so easily conjures up a hurtful or negative back story when presented with incomplete information?

The answer is: Down deep inside, we all harbor a natural belief that the failure of others improves our ability to think well of ourselves and look good to others.

The crying child allows me to believe that I’d never allow that out of my kids.

The discourteous driver makes me prouder of my driving prowess; the late arrival of the young man strokes that part of my ego that trumpets my anal punctuality.

To keep myself feeling and looking good, I need a backdrop pieced together out of the mistakes and ineptitude of others.

And given the opportunity to interpret situations despite the lack of critical information, I most always choose an interpretation that will promote my own sense of importance and ability.

Can anyone else recognize the sadness in all this? Can it really be that the best way to feel good is to manufacture failure stories starring those around me?

How much better would our relationships and neighborhoods be if we intentionally began thinking the best about those around us? And how much benefit would we find in being positive and encouraging and uplifting rather than critical, judgmental and dismissive?

One of the better admonitions in the Bible speaks to this very well.

The Apostle Paul said this to the Christ-followers in Philippi: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

If we would rid our hearts of the selfishness that is so pervasive in our society, if we would begin to consider others as more important than we are, if we could see the great benefit of intentionally looking out for the best interests of others, we’d all be more satisfied and less stressed.

We’d also come to see the benefit of getting all the information before coming to conclusions, along with the privilege of sharing our lives openly with those around us.

Communication does breed trust. And the great thing about trust is that, once formed, it continues to think the best even when someone is late for dinner and hasn’t called.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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