Who Do You Trust?

Almost two years ago Promod Sharma at Riscario Insider wrote a post, partially in response to something I had written, about “Who can you trust?“.  Promod suggests referrals as a way to trust someone you start doing business with, and in the comments I mused about following the reasoning of people you first encounter, and the more you agree with them, the more you can trust them in the future and the more times you catch them making questionable assertions the less you can trust them in the future:

I’d say another good way to find who to trust (referrals is a great option) is to follow their line of thinking (don’t just turn off your brain) and increase your trust as you agree with more of what they say. John T. Reed’s thinking is very well founded and he provides extensive supporting evidence. I don’t *have* to trust him, I can follow his reasoning.

Some Christian’s who don’t like evolution will talk about Darwin recanting on his deathbed and converting to Christianity. The assumption here is “don’t trust what this guy wrote, he took it back later in his life”. The thing is, we don’t *have* to trust Darwin, his reasoning stands on its own. Even if he said “I was just kidding about that whole Origin of the Species joke” we don’t need to trust the man to believe the information (whereas a cornerstone of faith is that you have to trust the messenger since no evidence is offered).

Once you’ve agreed enough with what someone has to say when they talk about things you understand, you can start believing them (trusting them) when they tell you their conclusions about things you *don’t* understand (although the best case scenario would be to get them to explain these things to you such that you agree with them because you understand the issue and no longer have to take their conclusion on “trust”).

A while back I responded to a classified ad by a woman who was looking for a real estate guru in Kitchener-Waterloo.  I warned her that her post had a good chance of attracting people who were trying to take advantage of her and to be careful (and pointed her to some of my real estate posts).  I recommended she read as much as she could for free on-line (and in books) before she started paying people to help her.  She asked me specifically what I thought about Robert Allen, who she had read and thought was good, and I directed her to John T. Reed’s pages about him.  After she looked at them she responded with:

I read Reed’s blog before.. but to tell you the truth.. I didn’t like his tactics.. he is no different then Allen.. kind of the same idea, lot’s of: I will show you.. I will teach you.. I will explain.. but just buy this particular book that cost $xxx, if you want to know this then it will cost you $xxx.. again.. He is putting someone else’s face down and trying to stay on top by claiming that he got “the Secret” and “The knowledge”.. so pay the price and read it

I found her response somewhat perplexing. To equate Allen and Reed seemed like saying Albert Einstein is the same as Ben Stein since they’re both Jewish intellectuals (and their names end in stein) or Macauly Caulkin is the same as Lucy Liu because they’re both actors.  Where do you begin to differentiate two people who are *SO* different?

Some might say that citing Reed shows that I’ve accepted him as my guru, which is no different than people in the Whitney, Trump or Kiyosaki camps.  I think the primary difference is that Reed first of all acknowledges the bias in a number of articles (not in this one however).  Additionally there is a massive difference in price.  Reed’s books range from $30-$50 with no possibility for seminars or follow up, other than books on different topics.  This stands in stark contract to $5K / weekend “courses” (which include pitches for more expensive follow-up courses since you’ve proven you’re not very bright and you have too much money).  Finally, the gurus he debunks say “X is true.”, and provide nothing to back it up.  Many of Reed’s opinions on various gurus result from his investigating their claims (and finding them to be bogus).  Reed does an excellent job of concisely proving providing his line of reasoning.  You may not agree with it entirely, but it’s all laid out for you to decide what part you agree or disagree with (which is useful as I mentioned in my comment on Pramod’s post).  I’m pretty opposed to a draft, but John T. Reed’s article arguing in favour of it was one of the most convincing arguments from the other side I’ve ever read.

We’ve had a similar experience with our real estate articles.  An agent levelled the accusation that we wrote attacks on real estate agents in order to get readers to visit our site and make money from advertisers, so we have just as much of a bias as we’re accusing agents of having (and people shouldn’t take our posts seriously).  The strange perspective there is the expectation that somehow pointing out the bias in how real estate agents get paid leads to more readers.  Maybe we’d have gotten more readers if we’d written a manifesto detailing why people need to trust their real estate agents more.  Or maybe we’d have gotten more readers if we’d written about why Cheddar cheese is the best cheese on the planet.  We’re often surprised which of our posts get the most attention, it’s certainly not something we’re deliberate about (“let’s write about topic XYZ to get lots of readers / advertisers / cash!!!”).  Our goal is to write entertaining, informative articles.  If we write something that’s untrue, our readers and commenters catch it, so we have a bias toward providing correct information.  We could be accused of writing inflammatory posts to get attention, but I’m confident they’re fairly accurate even if they are controversial (and given some of our recent posts such as “TFSA Institution Transfer Strategies” or “Mr. Cheap Asks: What Kind of Dog Should I Get My Dad?” I think controversial might even be a stretch).

How you trust someone you urgently need something from (like a doctor during a medical emergency or a lawyer during a legal emergency) is a tougher issue.  Ideally you’ll have someone you’ll have build a basis of trust with before the emergency, but if you don’t referrals might be your best course of action.

How do you decide who to trust in the short-term or the long-term?

5 replies on “Who Do You Trust?”

I believe my grandfather was the wisest professor to have taught me in all my education years…
He once told me: “Mark, never forget that trust is not given, it’s earned… but also don’t forget that in this day & age (and this was the mid 70’s) there will be someone who will gladly give you their trust for the right price”…
I can agree that referals are a great way to find someone in whom you can trust, but then again, you need to look at who is doing the refering.
I totally agree with what you said Mr.Cheap, the best way to trust is to get as much information and educate yourself, the rest is pretty much a gutt instinct (even though I don’t like the way that sounds)…

Thanks for the mention, Mr Cheap. I’m still very interested in the topic of trust and get Google Alerts to keep current.

By chance, I asked a lawyer about trust two days ago. The issue was financial advisors and how it’s difficult for the public to gauge the value of the advice. The reply? Caveat emptor. Buyer beware. That’s true, but not very helpful.

Authors can be credible. If their revenue comes from writing, they often share the best of what they know at low cost. You can scan through the book before purchase, which reduces your financial risk compared with attending a $$$ seminar.

What if you don’t know anyone who can give you referrals?

Try LinkedIn (like a Facebook for business). You can see who has provided recommendations. You can gauge the credibility of the people who provided the recommendations.

By the way, cheddar cheese is the best cheese in the world.

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