Can you take a risk?

Question: "Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?"

Answer: "I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am,  you may not like who I am, and it's all that I have.[1]"- J. Powell

You, no doubt, have taken some risks in self-disclosing. You have realized that in order to get to know someone you must self-disclose.[ See Lesson 5 for definition of self-disclosure] Have you also noticed that you had to trust the person in order to self-disclose? There is a certain amount of risk in any situation. Basically, it means you are willing to risk being rejected, or more precisely, willing to risk your interpretation that other's   reject you, in order to build that relationship. What is trust and how do we create the conditions for increasing it? Deutsch and others include four rather unique elements in their definition of trust.[2]

Deutsch's definition of trust is cited below:

1. The situation you are in has either beneficial or harmful consequences. [situational attribution]

2. The consequences depend to some extent on the behavior of another person.[situational attribution ]

3. The amount you may suffer outweighs the gain. [dispositional attribution]

4. There is some common sense that the other person will behave in a benevolent manner.[ dispositional attribution]


As you recall, the assumptions you make about other people, whether you can trust them or not, ( the attribution process) is based upon inferences. These initial inferences, which we make, (primacy effect) have a tendency to be (self-fulfilling) and to be quite durable.  Remember trust does not exist in a person, i.e., as is illustrated in the concept of dispositional attribution, nor is trust in a situation as illustrated in the concept of situational disposition. Trust, or distrust, exists in our projections and in others' projections of us, i.e., in our mind's own interpretation. of a person or situation or in other person's interpretation of a situation or of us. Nevertheless, have you noticed how long it takes to build trust and how easily it is broken? 

 Heider's attribution theory,  is an explanation of inferences of human behavior.  

As with any theory, Heider 's theory of the  attribution process does the following:

1.attempts to explain problems and hypothesizes  solutions,

2.affords rigorous experimentation,  and

3.provides a  high degree of statistical  correlation to as predictive outcome [3]

There are situations, however, when a theory may not seem to provide a complete  explanation. The human interpersonal attraction process is quite complex and one theory may seem incomplete. A theory is practical and works best when one can obtain  a considerable amount of information and works least well when most information is lacking. I allude to the donut analogy with the following quote.

"As ye ramble on through life brother/sister whatever be your goal, Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole"- Unknown

List all the definitions of trust that you can find in a dictionary.


My list of definitions of trust


Compare and contrast your favorite definition of trust with Deutsch's  which is cited above.

Which elements of the definitions of trust you gave are problems of attribution?

Be sure and provide an example and support it with your reasoning.

1. John Powell, Why Am I Afraid to tell You Who I Am?
2. David W. Johnson David, Reaching Out, Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 8th ed., p. 95
3. Don E. Hamachek,
Encounter with Others: Interpersonal Relationships and You, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, pages 18-30   

Copyright 1998  [Robert Brehm]. All rights reserved.