The Nature of Trust

whitetaildeerWhile I was walking in the woods the other day, I chanced upon a family of white-tailed deer. The group of four appeared to be an adult female and three youngsters. Though I’ve sighted many a deer in these woods, on this particularly lovely, crisp fall day, I hesitated far longer than usual.

As I admired the beautiful creatures, I began to think about trust. The deer seemed to trust me. Why?

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

— Ernest Hemingway

Initially, I remained very still, taking in their beauty. They were still, as well. I shuffled my feet, accidentally, and the four glanced immediately my way, but stayed in place.

I experimented by taking a few, tiptoed steps toward the animals. Though their eyes were all trained on me, for some reason, they trusted me. As I continued my experiment, a few steps at a time, all eight eyes were fixated my way. The deer allowed me to creep within ten feet of them.

Then, another person walking his dog (on a leash, thankfully) appeared out of nowhere. The doe and her three youngsters made a swift exit. The trust I’d slowly built with my new friends was immediately thwarted. All of the progress I had so carefully made vanished.

Luckily, the dog and his master quickly moved on. The deer began to settle down and inch back over my way.

Trust is like that. It takes much longer to build a trusting relationship than to derail it. In a relationship with a customer or a friend, it can take just one wrong move to break the trust.

My walk in the woods reminded me to tread steadily and carefully in my business and personal relationships, taking nothing for granted. It also reminded me to build as much trust as I can “up front.” If I have a strong foundation with my customers or friends, built on years of trust, a slight falter on my part just might go unnoticed.

by Rebecca Cochran

Photo courtesy