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Value Creation Blog

How I Built Trust In An On-Line World

Posted by Josh Patrick

Online resized 600I’ve mentioned before that I’m a member of an online writing class.  This group has now morphed into a new group and subset that is made up of people who were active in the writing class online forum.

I’ve formed a pretty strong bond with the people in our little group.  I’ve met a couple of these people face to face, but not most.  I consider the members of the group friends. 

I’ve been asking myself why I’ve developed this level of trust and why I consider them friends.  I think it really comes down to a few principles that work in the real world as well in the digital one.

It all starts with selflessness

It’s not that we don’t have self-interest, we do.  I think it’s because we are willing to share our knowledge and go a step further just because we want to be of value.  There is no expectation of return and in some cases there is even a cost involved.

One of the members, Paul Bond, owns a work clothes and boot retailing operation in Ireland (Brix Workwear).  He read about me complaining about my feet and how they were always in pain.  Paul sells a brand of boots (Haix) that he thinks are the most comfortable boots in the world.  He even sent me a free pair to try.  I’m hoping that I’ll soon be able to get them over my misshapen feet soon. 

Paul’s generosity is an example of selflessness that’s just nice.  It’s pretty hard not to trust someone who goes out of their way to make your life just a little better.

Consistency is important.

I trust the people in my group because I know they’re going to show up and participate.  The more people participate the more I trust them.  Those who post every day are going out of their way to maintain contact. 

The consistent posters must get value otherwise they wouldn’t be there.  At the same time it takes time and we all have to make decisions about how we spend time and what value we get.  Consistency in an online group is showing commitment to the group.  When several people are committed trust is formed.

You might want to think about how you can apply consistency in the real world.  It’s one of the best ways to build trust.  On the other side of the coin, being inconsistent is one of the best ways to destroy trust.

Be interesting

Being interesting means not always talking about yourself.  It’s about being curious.  The people in the group whom I’m most fond of are all very curious.  They want to learn new things.  Sometimes those new things are even about what I think is important.

Bring something new to the table in your group.  If you have specialized knowledge share it.  The days of you knowing something that others can’t find are long gone.  If what you know could make someone else’s life better share it and don’t expect anything to come back in return.  The simple act of sharing is a pretty good reward all by itself.

Be fun and have fun.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.  I have an ongoing word battle with several group members; yes, Stan Bush and Paul Bond I am talking about you. 

Too often we just take ourselves too seriously.  A little self-deprecation goes a long way.  It’s OK to make fun of yourself.  I find that when people don’t take themselves too seriously they become more humane.

This group has become a very important part of my life.  The nice thing about an online group is that you get to develop friendships with people from all over the world.  People you would have never had the opportunity to meet.

Both the online world and the real world require trust for making relationships work.  How do you go about building trust?  Do you notice when others help you?  Do you think they notice when you help them?  Controlling your self-interest isn’t important; it’s the whole thing.

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Topics: communication, trust, personal value

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