Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Fast Is Trust?

Musings from David Farrar, Managing Partner of Koliso

I often ask my clients and presentation audiences “How fast is trust?” The answers are usually the opposite of the evidence says, and their own experience would indicate. We have been brought up to think that trust is slow. We are told it takes a long time to build up trust, and people often think that once established trust takes a long time to erode. Something happened to me last week that emphasized again the answer is the opposite of what you might think.

Last week we went to a production at our local Guthrie Theater. It was Two Gentleman of Verona, and it’s the kind of play that you want to talk about afterwards. We were all primed for some light refreshments when we left the theater. Across the road from the theater exit is a nice little restaurant run by one of the Twin Cities better known restaurateurs. So here’s the first lesson about trust. Once lost, it takes a long time to regain. I think this person’s restaurants are overpriced for what you get, and there’s not a lot to choose from on the menu. I haven’t been back in a very long time after a previous bad experience.

On this night there was a sandwich-board type sign out the front that advertised “After Theater Menu: Appetizers and Desserts.” That sounded ideal, so contrary to my previous experience I was prepared to try again. This is typical of how trust works. It’s fast. We typically decide whether or not to trust someone or something very quickly, and the research shows that this is true whether we are making hiring decisions or deciding on a new brand of soap powder. Change a couple of variables and we are generally prepared to review the situation.

(Note: This is true of most people. While some people are generally “trust averse” they are just as likely to make that decision not to trust quickly. The speed of most people’s trust decisions is fast regardless of whether they are typically trusting or not.)

It’s cold in Minneapolis at this time of year, so entering a restaurant entails a lot of work. You stand about waiting for your table, and then spend five minutes taking off all the various layers of coats, hats and gloves. This explains why we didn’t leave when we were told the kitchen was closed once we were seated. No apology…just an offer of a drinks menu. Shortly after we saw staff standing in the kitchen doorway eating. To be fair, the food might have been leftovers or reheated, but letting staff eat in view of paying customers who had been denied food didn’t look good. The people next to us complained, and were just told again “the kitchen is closed.”

We finished our one drink and left. On the way out we saw the sandwich board with the “After Theater Menu” still on the sidewalk.  So, they were quick to gain my trust, and just as quick to lose it. And now it’s been lost, how long do you think it will be before I go to that restaurant again?

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