October 5, 2016

Do you trust other people? Happiness & Fulfillment #5

by Dion Damen

In general, do you think other people can be trusted? The answer to this question varies a lot from country to country, as you might have guessed already. However, did you also know that research proved that overall, countries are happier when people’s trust levels are higher. So, interpersonal trust is a big determinant of happiness. 

Why trust is historically ingrained in us

Steven Pinker states in his book ‘How the mind works’, that the reason why trusting others is so important is because trust played a big role in our evolutionarily past. Because in the past, people often needed to work together in order to survive. What if you can’t trust your neighbor that has borrowed meat and vegetables from you, that he won’t give it back. Not trusting others means to constantly look over your shoulder to possible threats. Nobody wants to live like that.

In order to determine my own trust level, Dr Raj. gave us another survey to complete. My trust levels were higher than average. I was really glad about my results because Dr Raj. had mentioned before the test that almost everybody will score beneath the average trust levels, unless you have thought about this topic before. And I guess I have thought about it before.

How I have learned to trust

As Dr. Raj. explained all the benefits of trusting others I understood that I had realized many of them already. Working in the bookshop/post office contributed to this a lot. We have a very pleasant working environment where the relationship between us and the customers is nice, friendly and informal. A part of the environment is that we trust the customer, and the customer trusts us.
For example, if someone did not bring enough money, we often tell them to bring the rest of the money another time. In 9 out of 10 situations, people actually return later that day, or even another day, to pay off the rest. I have experienced that in situations where people trust each other, both sides have a smile on their face, and so have increased their happiness.

Why you should trust more:

I recommend to everyone who wants to be a more trustworthy towards others to consider two things: 
  •  The first thing to consider is that even though, we hear a lot of the negative stories every day from the media about untrustworthy behavior of people, many studies have proved people to be more trustworthy than we actually think them to be. One of these studies was done in Toronto, where 20 wallets were ‘left behind’ on the streets, including cash and the name and address of the fictive owner of the wallet. You might not have guessed it, but 16 out of the 20 wallets were returned to their original owner.
  • Another thing to really understand about trusting others is that there are a lot of ‘hidden’ benefits when you are trusting someone. You do not instantly 'get' the results when trusting someone, however there definitely are benefits.

One of the hidden benefits of trusting others is that when trusting someone, a hormone ‘oxytocin’ is released. This hormone is also released when two people are in love, or when a mother feeds her baby.   

Another hidden benefit is that you are contributing to "upliftment" in society. This is because if you trust someone, they in turn are trustworthy back. Which also means they are more trustworthy towards others in society.

So, by trusting others, you are actually contributing to society. Making people feel connected with one another. And this connection between one another is in turn something which everybody (sometimes unknowingly) wants.

Want to find out your own trust level? Do the test here.

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