Discovering trust in relationships and marketing

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One of my most jarring “failures” as a young person occurred when, at age 21, the organizers of Day House, a group therapy program at the University of British Columbia, kicked me out of their program.  The program’s idea:  combine a diversity of psychological therapies in an intensive multi-week group therapy exercise to help participants solve a diversity of problems (and for the researchers running the program to gather insights into which therapies worked better than others.)

The program featured a 70′s era “trust jump”.   We were expected to stand on a chair and then jump into the group, to be “rescued” by everyone there. (I can’t find an image that exactly correlates with this experience.  Some images available show people jumping into a tarp — at Day House, we had nothing but the group to “fall into”.) Some people had no problems with this simple exercise, but it put real fear into my heart.  It seems I simply wasn’t ready to let go and trust others enough to succeed in the program.  Part of the problem:  my parents truly opposed the exercise, perhaps uncomfortable with the personal and family skeletons the program sought to uncover.  (In hindsight, we had virtually no true skeletons at home — certainly I did not grow up in an abusive family, either physically or mentally.)

Regardless, after about four weeks, the people in charge asked me to leave because, it seems, I had lost the confidence and trust of my peers.  They referred me to the university’s psychiatric hospital group therapy — where, for a few days, I found myself among a bunch of (what seemed to me) to be drugged up zombies.  Certainly the people in the hospital program had much more serious problems.  I decided, probably wisely, to take the waiting job as a student summer reporter on The Vancouver Province daily newspaper.  It seemed a wiser way to spend my summer.

The failure, however, continued to haunt me and shaped some of my decisions as I went forward in life.  I realized there might be merit in various forms of “group therapy” as I sought to develop my social capacities and overcome the severe withdrawal and isolation limiting my ability to form close relationships.   Accordingly, even though I might have been happier alone, I sought out shared living circumstances.  Undoubtedly these had varying levels of success.  At age 25-26 I shared living accommodations in a “mess” in Bulawayo, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe until I got kicked out for non-compatibility; and (more successfully) in the couple of years before marrying at 40, I shared a home with my former publishing designer and his girlfriend — there, thankfully, learning some vital functioning social skills to make it a little easier to adjust to the married home/family life I’ve enjoyed for the past 17 years.

Obviously, I’m admitting some rather serious functioning limitations here and indeed i continue at times to be extremely awkward in social settings and wish to withdraw into a solitudinal shell.  But I’m fortunate to have overcome the most extreme limitations of my very real handicap, with a combination of determination, practice, support and perseverance.

I also have discovered, I think, the meaning of trust — and its vital importance in life, business and marketing.

Trust, allowing yourself the confidence to accept,believe and be totally confident those around you, is a powerful emotion.  It is also easy to abuse.  Scammers and con-artists, of course, are masters at tricking people into thinking they are trustworthy when really they are criminals.  Many, I’m afraid, get away with it.  Some are caught but only after they cause great harm.  Remember Bernie Madoff?

However, unless you can trust others — and cause them to be able to trust you — will undoubtedly fail in your marketing initiatives.  With all the noise and selling options out there; with all the bombarding variations and decisions to make, which businesses will really receive the business?  Sure, low price can count, but virtually every opportunity I know will be based on your ability to win the trust of the decision-makers.   Who will win the design RFP for the multi-million dollar project, after all?  The proponent who says:  “We can build this cheaply” or the one that combines proven experience (validated by references), an impressive design and — most importantly — a presentation where the proposers combine confidence, rapport-building and (most likely) some level of personal connection/relationship with the potential purchasers?

I am virtually certain you won’t need or find it appropriate to set up a “trust jump” or engage in intensive therapy to learn how to be able to function and trust others effectively.  However, unless you can truly capture the trust concept; and learn how to (honorably) earn that trust from the people who can say “yes” to your marketing proposition, you will undoubtedly fail in construction marketing.

For additional insights into this topic, see this posting from several years ago, and the really great comment from the late Sonny Lykos.

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