What Is Mutual Trust and Respect?

October 21, 2022

We often use the words “mutual trust and respect” in our daily conversations but what does "trust" mean? And what does “respect” mean? Do they mean that I offer you a seat to sit down, or that I smile, or that I don't interrupt you when you speak? What do these terms really mean

I have spent fifty years of my professional life exploring what they mean operationally—because that's what we offer at the institute to companies.  To build a culture based on trust and respect so there is no waste of internal energy. No internal disintegration, such as fighting and misunderstandings, that causes organizations to waste energy rather than use it effectively in the competitive world.

Energy is fixed at a point in time. Whatever is lost on internal fighting or discord because there is no mutual trust and respect,  is not available to fight effectively the competition.  The more internal peace the more energy to win the challenges out there. 

This applies to countries as well. As America is falling apart with racial and political discord, we are losing energy. We are losing our leadership over the world. So, what does "mutual respect" mean operationally so we can build, and nurture it in our lives and organizations?  

According to the philosopher Immanuel Kant,  respect is to recognize the right of another person to think differently, to be different. The moment I say, “Why aren't you like me? Why don't you think like me? Why are you different?” I'm not respecting your sovereign right, an undeniable right, to be who you are, to think what you uniquely think about. TO BE YOU.

 Hold up your hand with palm out and fingers together. What do you see? Each finger is different and performs a different job, yet they are all in line together—side by side, ready to let each do its own job, working together.

When there is complementary diversity and mutual respect, interchange of information occurs. Learning occurs and synergy occurs. 

And what is trust? When I say, “I trust you,” what am I really saying? I’m saying that I trust that you consider my interest to be as important as your own. And because of this, I can turn my back to you; I know that if you stab me, you will suffer as well. We are together. We are one. You care for me as much as I care for you. 

Trust is the indispensable ingredient of a symbiotic system. When I trust the system,  I contribute to the system and the system rewards me in return. In countries where they don't trust the government, people avoid taxes. They don't believe that there is the common good. 

When we trust each other, the implementation of decisions—the implementation of change—is much more effective and much more rapid. And the one who changes faster is going to win the war in a competitive environment.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes