ALEXANDRIA, La. – Reader’s Digest recently released the results of a poll the publication conducted on the subject of trust. The Trust Poll “compiled a list of over 200 American opinion shapers and headline makers from 15 highly influential professions.”
Next, the well-known periodical “polled a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 American adults, asking them to rank each person on trustworthiness.” Reader’s Digest not only published “The 100 Most Trusted People in America,” but the magazine also looked at trusted professions and why trust occurs.
Seven of the top ten in the Trust Poll were from the field of entertainment. The top four were Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. Coming in at six was film director Steven Spielberg. Numbers eight and 10 were Alex Trebek, host of the game show “Jeopardy,” and actress Julia Roberts.
Maya Angelou, author, poet and college professor came in at number five in the Reader’s Digest poll, and Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, finished at seven while his wife, Melinda, came in at number 10. Ms. Gates is the co-chair of the philanthropic Gates Foundation.
I found interesting a few others who made the top 100 most trustworthy list. Tim Tebow, professional football player, finished at number 40. President Obama came in at 64 and evangelist Billy Graham made the list at 67.
Examining why people place their trust in someone, Reader’s Digest listed six characteristics that seemed to matter the most. These are: integrity/character; exceptional talent/drive for excellence; internal moral compass; message; honesty; and leadership.
Reader’s Digest did an analysis of the results, and its first deduction was that “we trust people we know more than anyone famous.” So why the apparent conflict with the Top 10 list, which was full of entertainers? That’s because the magazine said it removed the “three highest scores” from its list, which were “your own doctor” (77 percent), “your own spiritual adviser” (71 percent), and “your own child’s current teacher” (66 percent), “to focus on the public figures who resonated with everyone.”
It is good to know that most Americans put more stock, more trust, into the people they actually know and have contact with than they do in celebrities and people with whom they have never met.
Another of Reader’s Digest’s conclusions from the poll was “tweeting does not earn trust.” According to the magazine, “Folks with large social media audiences … drifted to the bottom of our list of 200. Some, like Sandra Bullock (#2) do not even have official Twitter accounts.”
There were other deductions by Reader’s Digest on the Trust Poll worth noting. Among them: “You can recover from mistakes, and we’ll still trust you.” In other words, if trust is tainted or even lost, it can, over time, be recovered. Another conclusion is that for trust to occur “we have to perceive that you’re genuine.”
Among the most trusted professions in America, according to the Trust Poll: doctors, teachers/educators, movie stars, philanthropists, spiritual leaders.
In his book The Speed of Trust, business ethics author Stephen M.R. Covey examined 13 principles he viewed as necessary to establish trust or to re-establish trust. Among the principles he cited that create trust are: Talk Straight; Demonstrate Respect, Create Transparency; Right Wrongs, Show Loyalty; Practice Accountability; Keep Commitments.
I could not agree more. Trust is the key that opens the door for effectiveness and success in every area of life. The lack of trust is a toxin that can cause the death of every relationship and every endeavor.
The Reader’s Digest poll also underscores that trust must be perceived. A reputation of trust is earned over time and, can influence people you have never met. An absence of trust will have the opposite effect.
In a story known as the “Parable of the Talents,” Jesus, the consummate Teacher, taught that a person who is faithful over a few things will be faithful over many things. In other words, trust is earned by faithfully fulfilling minor tasks and/or giving attention to details. Small things matter when it comes to trust.
Jesus also taught, “Therefore, whatever, you want others to do for you, do also the same for them…” Put simply, we are to treat people the way we want to be treated.
Applying Jesus’ teaching to the subject of trust, we can extract the following.
Trust is earned over time. It requires patience.
Little things make a big difference in establishing and maintaining trust.
In order to gain, keep or regain trust, you must treat people the way you would want them to treat you. Be honest, be respectful and if you mess up, confess and seek forgiveness.
“You can have all the facts and figures, all the supporting evidence, all the endorsement that you want,” observed Niall Fitzgerald, former chairman of Unilever, “but if you don’t command trust, you won’t get anywhere.”
There is one thing that forms the foundation of all relationships – personal and professional. It is trust.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)