The Other Mind – Part Two | Are the Trustworthy too Trusting?


In the first section of this article I focused on understanding ‘the other mind’ when communicating or crafting a message. Now, I will focus on a danger of ‘the other mind’ — the way trust works.

Unfortunately, people who are trustworthy are often too trusting. Conversely, those who can not be trusted, are frequently skeptical, doubting and have a hard time trusting anyone.

This is another ‘problem of the other mind’ and results directly from the idea that people fail to remember that everyone has their own view of the world.

The reason that dishonest people don’t trust others is that they believe that others will behave as they would; badly.

I once worked for a paranoid and secretive man. A man who trusted no-one. I was too young to understand, at the time, that this should have been a major indictment of his own trustworthiness. Over time, I came to understand another strange truth of human nature — he believed himself to be ethical and trustworthy.

Early in my time with the company, we were working to acquire some equipment for possible resale. He was not certain that he wanted the equipment — he hadn’t managed to sell it yet — but he was certain that he didn’t want the seller to sell it to anyone else. His solution was elegant, deceitful and inherently unethical; he faxed them a blank piece of paper.

He saw the questioning look on my face and decided to explain: He had told the seller that he would fax over a purchase order but since he was not really sure he wanted to buy the equipment, before he had it sold, he sent a blank page instead.

I was still confused; he explained, “That way, if I don’t want to buy it he has no proof that I was going to. No purchase order, no transaction. On the other hand, if he sells it to someone else, I will be able to prove through my phone records that I did fax over a purchase order.”

If I was animated by Pixar, my jaw would have slammed to the ground. I could not even contemplate seeing the world that way. He saw the look of shock on my face and mis-read it as wonderment; he smiled proudly as he turned to walk away.

Another ‘problem of the other mind’ lies when dishonest people come to the realization that other people are generally trusting — something that they can not relate to, but are happy to utilize.

When a Bernie Madoff starts selling unlikely investment returns to people it is with the knowledge that (a) he would never fall for such a thing and (b) that a good percentage of the population will.

I once acquired a business from three partners, one of whom was a mini-Madoff. The mini-Madoff closed the transaction under a false name so my background checks turned up nothing. I would learn much later — long after my funds were transferred — that the man had served time in federal prison for running a Ponzi scheme and had been facing as many as 485 years in prison!

How had I failed to see any of this about him before I invested my funds? The problem rested with my own inability to see the world the way he sees it. I could not imagine someone being such a convincing and compelling liar — it was a problem of the ‘other mind.’

In retrospect, I should have seen it with both mini-Madoff and my ex-employer. How? Looking back, they were both tight-lipped and paranoid. Both enjoyed secrets and conspiracy. Both were willing to engage in gossip, character assassination and small lies. These signs should have been — and now would be — obvious and ominous warnings to me.

Remembering that your mind is not a reflection of ‘the other mind’ is important in both communication and in your allocation of trust. – Edmeades

Part 3 Coming Soon…. Get Inside The Other Mind