20 Ways to Expand your Trust Radius.

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough. Frank Crane – Historian and Sociologist.

If you are anything like me, you’ve been screwed over and learned a lot the hard way. You’ve built street smarts which have served you well. Some ‘normal’ people may even say that your skepticism borders on paranoia. But you justify it with real examples of people trying abuse you or rip you off and your ‘eyes in the back of your head’ have saved you on numerous occasions.

Now maybe you’re in a new environment, you are off the streets, out of a dysfunctional family, or ended an abusive relationship, and now you need to build new relationships, find business connections, help your community, nurture your family and the skills that served you so well in the past… are… well… pretty much worthless.

To succeed in this new environment you need to expand the radius of trust around yourself. A radius of believability, safety, and compassion. 

Here are 20 ways you can expand your trust radius: 

  1. Write down the names of the people you absolutely trust. If your list is long, you can stop reading now. If your name is the only one on the list, you need to read this post.
  2. Suspend your own position and gain understanding. Be open and never rigid. When someone challenges your view of life, business, politics, religion, or any other deeply held value or belief, listen and consider what they are saying. Let the other person know that you value their contribution. Defensiveness destroys trust and communication.
  3. Admit your mistakes. Everyone knows how important this is, but few of us practice it. We tend to dig our own graves repeating our mistakes. We tend to defend all of our decisions simply because they are ours. But when you decide to think, act, or feel a particular way and aren’t getting the results you desire it is time to look for the mistakes you are making. Sometimes the mistakes are obvious and we deny them. Other times we need to dig deep down within ourselves to find them. But when we do find them, we must admit them and and make a conscious effort to correct them if we want to build trusting relationships.
  4. Admit your fears (at least to yourself).  Do you know what many of us do when we are afraid? We get angry. In most cultures fear is considered a weakness and we’ve learned to convert it to anger. For some reason, anger is more socially acceptable than fear, especially for men. Did you know that some of the most violent men, at their core, are nothing more than frightened little boys who are masking it with anger? A quick way to destroy trust is to direct anger at someone else. The next time you feel angry at someone, ask yourself why. What’s really under the surface? Is it fear? Fear of competition? Fear of inadequacy? Fear of economic loss? Fear of emotional loss? Insecurity? Most of us never confront and admit our underlying fears which destroy trust.
  5. Use authentic words. Have you ever heard people who sound scripted? The obvious example is a politician spewing platitudes and cliche. I’ll never forget how robotic Al Gore sounded during the 2000 campaign. When I hear a politician speak, I think, “Will you say something in your own freaking words for once!” If you’ve been in a few corporate meetings, you’ve probably heard something like this, “robust technologies which will create a paradigm shift utilizing synergies between disparate global systems streamlining processes and measuring real-time global metrics creating agile competitive decision making strategies.” Don’t be that guy. Unless you’re a professional actor, use your own words or you’ll sound like a phony. Authenticity builds trust, phoniness destroys it.
  6. When someone shares deep feelings or crazy ideas don’t judge them. Have you ever come up with a crazy idea during a brainstorming session? So crazy you were afraid to mention it? Did you mention it? If you did, you probably don’t need to work on this. If you didn’t, you probably do. Are you too quick to shoot down other people’s ideas because they seem far out? People thought Galileo, Copernicus, Tesla, and Fred Smith were nuts. A lot of great ideas sounded crazy at first. If you learn to tone down your inner judge, you will find that you will begin to trust yourself and your own original ideas. The next time you hear yourself thinking, that’s nuts, or when you get uncomfortable because you sense deep emotion, stop and ask yourself why. If you are honest with yourself you’ll probably learn things about yourself you’ve never known before.
  7. Never intentionally hurt someone. People usually do this with spoken words intended to discredit someone. Other times they do it in vengeance. Some even call it justice. Intentionally hurting other people will never satisfy your emotional needs; it will only deepen your wounds. If you have a conscience, you will carry guilt and lose trust in your own judgement. If others learn of your attacks (even if they are verbal) the distrust will spread. The reasons you see so few people of integrity in politics are: people of integrity do not want others attacked in their name and they do not wish to have their families smeared. Debate ideas, but don’t smear people.
  8. Keep agreements, commitments, and promises. Do this both in the spirit and the letter of the agreement and people will put their trust in you. People will defend you because they know you mean what you say. Do not make agreements, commitments, and promises lightly. Do not make ones you don’t intend to honor. Don’t make them with deceptive loopholes and language. Do and mean what you say.
  9. Have faith in those you choose to associate with. Have faith that your spouse, children, co-workers, friends, employees, and neighbors will make good decisions even when you are not present. If you don’t trust them, they won’t trust you.
  10. Embrace differences. We fear and distrust the things we do not understand. Many times we don’t understand something because it is unusual, foreign, or new. It could be a different language, different values, different style, different music, or a different lifestyle. But if you embrace differences, you will learn to accept and trust others as they are and more often than not they will return your trust.
  11. Embrace disagreement. But do it in a honest ethical intelligent way. Don’t be a ‘yes’ man and don’t expect anyone else to be one either. Your willingness to accept disagreement shows others that you trust them and care about finding the best solution. It shows that you know they are trying to find the best solution too. Look at disagreements as an opportunity to learn something new. Your willingness to embrace disagreement will show others you value their ideas and opinions even when you may not agree. People will feel safe discussing important issues with you.
  12. Act in the best interest of others. It doesn’t matter if you are in sales or in programming, if the first thing you think about when delivering your services or product is the end user or the customer, you will build loyalty and trust. Your commitment to the best interest of someone else will show in your work. On a personal level, if you are a spouse or a parent and you act with the best interest of your family members in mind, your relationship with them will grow and strengthen. A sure way to destroy trust is to consistently act in a selfish manner.
  13. Be willing to ask others for help. We all need other people. We can’t go it completely alone because we can’t know and do everything that needs to be done. Some of us (I have been one) believe asking for help is a weakness. It isn’t. If you learn when and who to ask for help, it will become one of your greatest strengths.
  14. Listen to and consider criticism. This is hard for most of us, but if you trust that others only criticize when they believe you can do better, you will become less defensive and expand your radius of trust. There is always something to be learned from criticism, warranted and unwarranted. Consider it, accept it or reject it and move on.
  15. Give direct, specific, non-punishing feedback. Indirect non specific feedback which feels like punishment will cause others to suspect your motives. They won’t feel safe in your presence, but if instead, you are direct and specific they will grow to trust your feedback. For example, if an employee published a poor quality photo on your website, tell them directly that you expect better content, be specific about your standards and give them examples. Follow up by trusting them to have higher expectations next time and give them another chance to get it right.
  16. Tell people you trust them. I’m not telling you to lie. I’m saying, when you trust others, tell them so. I recall a neighbor giving me the code to her security system, allowing me to enter her home while her family was on vacation so I could borrow some medicine for my son. She specifically said, “Steve, don’t worry about it. I trust you.” I was surprised how good her words felt. Sometimes we don’t realize the value of kind words.
  17. Have open free flowing dialogue. Never try to dominate a conversation. Listen to what others are saying, give them time to talk, don’t interrupt, and when they are ready to end the conversation, let it end. People will be more likely to engage you in conversation because they know you are listening and attentive to their cues. Free-flowing dialogue encourages communication and builds trust. No one likes to be dominated.
  18. Accept people for who they are. Never demand they play a particular role. I see parents try to make athletes out kids who have little interest in sports. Other parents try to make mathematicians out of kids who would rather be writing music. Managers try to force people to play roles or learn skills that do not suit them. Lack of acceptance for people, their interests, and their strengths destroys trust. Actors play roles, real people live their lives. Unless you are a film director, don’t expect people to be anyone except who they are.
  19. Practice Trust. If you struggle with trust, try trusting someone with something that will do little harm if they disappoint you. Loan someone a tool or a few dollars. Let someone else, maybe the waiter, recommend something at a restaurant. If you always drive, let someone else drive for a change. The more you practice, the more you will trust. Just like building physical strength, building trust requires exercise.
  20. Sit down when you interact with people. Sitting shows that you are giving people your full attention and time. Standing, pacing, checking your watch sends the message that you don’t value the interaction and that you want it to end as soon as possible. Sitting down and actively listening builds trust.

The Joy of Reading

In a recent post, Rick Cockrum asked the question, Can You Spell Bibliophile? Rick, thanks for the question. 

My love affair with books goes back to my earliest memories. I can’t imagine a world without real tangible books you can hold in your hands.

Books are my DOC (Drug of Choice)

I cherish my memories of…

Sitting next to my mother, wafts of coffee and chocolate drifting through the air, while she read The Hiding Place aloud.

Long subarctic North Dakota nights, howling winds, swirling snow crystals sliding across the windows, and my mother’s voice reading me The Emancipation of Robert Sadler.

The Fargo Public Library where I sat alone on the floor with a pile of books for hours, lost in other worlds.

As a schoolboy, being left alone for entire afternoons at B. Dalton Booksellers in West Acres Mall. I could have gone to the arcade or the toy store but I didn’t. Instead I read.

Skipping school and spending the day alone reading at the public library.

Today, I’d say we have between 5,000 and 10,000 books in our house, most of which are for sale. I live in a book store and it is a dream come true.


I’m going to take this meme in a different direction and just tell you what I have been reading over the last month or so and then list some of my all time favorite authors.

Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I keep a copy of this book on my night stand and I read passages nightly.

The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy
This explores why people buy and how to sell to them. Brian says that all buying is emotional and every good salesman knows it. I concur. He also states that you never lose a deal on price. I disagree. I just watched a large deal come down to price. The salesman from the ‘expensive’ company performed as Brian Tracy coaches and he lost the deal on price. This book is worth the read because there is a lot to learn from it, but Tracy is dead wrong on price because price is the most emotional issue surrounding a purchasing decision. People think price is a simple unemotional math calculation, but it isn’t. If it was, all salaries in a corporation would be published on the corporate intranet, because after all, they are just numbers, right? But they aren’t published because people get emotional about the price they are getting paid for their labor. It is the same with all transactions. Most people use money to value themselves and others. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t care how much money they made relative to others. Differences over money results in more divorces than any other conflict, which should tell you something about our relationship with money. Our relationship with money is very similar to our relationship to sex. The wrong price can make people feel angry, hurt, insulted, afraid, or foolish. The right price can make people feel smart, happy, courageous, or wealthy. Have you ever been happy with a product until you found out someone else got a lower price? Then how did you feel?

Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble
This is the Bible on corporate business blogging by the best in the business. This book gives us a look inside the borg and how blogging helped Microsoft turn its image around. Robert Scoble is an inspiration. He beat the odds and won with integrity, innovation, and courage.

I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrerre
Philip Dick had an amazing mind; the kind that fascinates me. A mind that breaks the patterns of our mass media, government educated consciousness. I expected a fair impartial account of Philip Dick’s life, but some of Carrerre’s prose reads more like fiction than biography. He tells some accounts as though he witnessed them as an omnipresent consciousness, using details he couldn’t have known, like Philip Dick’s thoughts, which makes me suspect of Carrerre’s objectivity. The real “Dickheads” don’t like this book. I’m not a “Dickhead” but I am still suspect of Carrerre’s account. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the work and Emmanuel’s prose is among the best in the business.

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff
The best three paragraphs I’ve read this year are from this book:

This purpose entails three and only three governmental functions. In Ayn Rand’s statement, these are: the police to protect men from criminals – the armed services to protect men from foreign invaders – the law courts to settle disputes among men according to objective laws. Any additional function would have to involve the government initiating force against innocent citizens. Such a government acts not as man’s protector, but as a criminal.

Government is inherently negative. The power of force is the power of destruction, not of creation, and it must be used accordingly, i.e. , only to destroy destruction. For a society to inject this power into any creative realm, spiritual or material, is a lethal contradiction: it is the attempt to use death as a means of sustaining life.

The above means, first of all, that the state must not intervene in the intellectual and moral life of its citizens. It has not standards to uphold and no benefits to confer in regard to education, literature, art, science, sex (if adult and voluntary), or philosophy. Its function is to protect freedom not truth or virtue.

Leonard translates Ayn’s philosophy into layman’s terms. I like how he brings much of her philosophy into the post Soviet world and uses the demise of international socialism/communism as an example of Ayn’s philosophy. At the root, our economic and social problems come from too much central management, not too little. Many people see a social or economic problem and think the government should solve it. This book illustrates the folly of this thinking. The forced government s
olution will
either make the problem worse or create a larger “blowback” from somewhere else.


A few of my favorite authors: Thoreau, Emerson, Twain, Orwell, Huxley, Rand, and Hill.

What is a Waste of Time?

I was digging through some boxes of old stuff, and I noticed something fascinating… Something that provoked a question about life that I’ve never asked before.

I stumbled upon my old report cards. After each subject was a space for a short comment. Every report card from 2nd thru 12th grade had two words describing my performance – WASTES TIME.

So I guess my teachers thought I wasted a lot of time. Looking back I suppose they were right – for me school was a waste of time.

But then I thought… Maybe I’m wrong… Maybe they were wrong too… I’ve never thought it through… I’ve never asked myself the question…

What exactly is a waste of time?

I’ve heard people say video games are a waste of time. I disagree. Video games can be the best of times.

A woman told me that she didn’t want to go to the lake with her boyfriend anymore because it was a waste of time. All he did was sit at the end of the dock with his cousin lighting bottle rockets and drinking beer. It sounds fun to me. I could spend a weekend that way.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always thought sleeping was a waste of time – a third of your life doing nothing.

My mother told me, that when I was a kid, I thought eating was a waste of time.

My two-year-old thinks going potty is a waste of time.

Some people say working hard and losing is a waste of time. Funny, I’ve learned more losing than I’ve ever learned winning.

The establishment said voting for Jesse Ventura was a waste of time because he couldn’t win. In retrospect, maybe it was a waste of time because he did win. But there is a lot to learn from his wasted time in office.

The hyper-scheduled nature of today’s world seems like a waste of time to me. I avoid scheduling my life as much as possible. When my calendar is full it seems like I have no time.

For the last month I have been trying to schedule two hours of unstructured play for my son and his best friend from school and we still haven’t found a time that works. The realization that we can’t find two hours for our 5-year-olds to play together without scheduling it several months in advance saddens me.

Which got me thinking… maybe all the time we spend trying to get everything done is the real waste of time, unless what we really enjoy is getting things done.

Do you ever stop and think… Why am I doing all this stuff?

Do you ever feel like your sole purpose in life is crossing things off lists and maintaining your calendar?

Maybe if you aren’t enjoying yourself, all your time is wasted. All that time we spend bored, frightened, angry, in a hurry, or unhappy, isn’t that the real waste of time?

For me, the time I value, is the time I have free after everything is done. The time I can spend reading, writing, playing games, walking in the woods, lighting a campfire, canoeing, or conversing with interesting people, all with carefree spontaneity.

Wasted time is relative, isn’t it?

Maybe that’s why my teachers all said I wasted time, because if I spent my time doing what I thought was valuable, I wasn’t doing what they thought was valuable. So I wasn’t really wasting anyone’s time, they just thought I was, because they didn’t take the time to understand what I valued.

Tell me what you think? I’d like to know.

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Child Creativity Linked With Outdoor Free Time

Are children today getting enough contact with the natural world? Do they still dig in the dirt, build forts, and observe the animals frolic in the trees? Do you remember the hours of fun you had in the woods with just a stick and your imagination? With all of our technology and entertainment it is easy for children to miss out on the natural outdoor free play that studies show is critical for developing creativity

Parents sometimes let their kids outside. But is it enough to just be outside? Isn’t it sometimes…well…a little…plastic? It’s better than nothing, but this playground stands in sharp contrast to what I am about to share with you.

Early this fall, at the University of Minnesota Arboretum, we discovered “under the oak,” a natural place for children. If you get a chance, visit it. It’s wonderful. We need more places like this.

When you approach the area you’ll see this sign reminding us about how important it is for children to have free time to develop in nature:


The massive oak tree beyond the sign looks like this. 

Here is a close up of the “Toad Abode” 

Under the tree, kids can build and play in natural tunnels… 

And forts… Watch Out! Ya might get poked with a stick! Don’t tell the safety nazis. 

Someone built this cool fort… Check out the canvas roof… 

I don’t think that stick was meant to be a weapon… but… well… boys will be boys.

This is the view from the inside.

You can build your own canvas tent… 

Or set up shop and pretend you’re a little entrepreneur… 

Or set the table. But my son wanted to make little paths out of the plates. 

Until he found something more interesting. 

We had hours of fun under that old oak tree… 

In the background of this photo you can see some cornstalks. That’s a garden with sunflowers and vegetables and other plants, where the kids are encouraged to touch everything. 

Next to the garden is a green house with a variety of things we can’t grow in Minnesota like cacti and citrus fruit. Again, the kids are encouraged to touch everything, even the cacti – ouch! 

I wish we had a playground like this in every neighborhood. Maybe… someday. Until then, I’m grateful we have this one. 

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This post is part of the Season of Gratitude at the Balanced Life Center.