It’s a matter of trust

By Caitlin Kelly

From Seth Godin’s blog:

Traditional con men do their work one person at a time. It’s a laborious process, earning trust and the benefit of the doubt before ultimately ripping someone off.

Toward the end of my dad’s life, shameless/shameful phone salespeople did just this and stole his trust, his time and his money.

Like most things, industrialists want to do it faster and bigger.

Scammy direct mail used to be obvious even at a distance. The labels, the stamps, the typography–it all signaled that this wasn’t personal.

And the occasional phone salesperson, calling from a boiler room–we could tell.

Now, as data acquisition continues to scale and become ever more granular, the hustle is getting more personal.

It’s in an uncanny valley–almost real, but not quite. And of course, the distance keeps getting shorter.

So the mail merge, the phone spam, the faux intimacy of a stranger. They continue to blur the lines between personal and personalized.

The end result is going to be a shrinking of our previously-widening circle of trust.

The benefit of the doubt is priceless. I have no patience for people who want to take it away from us.

I think about trust a lot.

I grew up in a family much more comfortable expressing anger, verbally, or not discussing feelings at all. I spent my childhood between boarding school and summer camp, surrounded by strangers, some of who were horrible, some of whom became dear friends.

When you’ve seen that people don’t want to listen to you, or misuse and twist what you’ve shared with them, trust isn’t something you later just quickly hand over to everyone!

I’ve learned this the hard way.

So it’s left me very wary.

In my 20s, I made the fatal error of telling a few coworkers II thought were friends something potentially damaging to me personally who, of course, used it against me. I left Toronto and never went back.

In my late 30s, divorced and lonely and my self-confidence at a very low ebb, I met a charming, handsome man through a personals ad — remember those?!

He said he was a lawyer and had a business card and personal stationery that seemed legit and spent a lot of time on the phone arguing with his “partner.”

He was just a con man who had already rooked a bunch of women in Chicago, done time for his crimes, and was now picking off fresh prey in New York and a few other states at once.

It became the most frightening experience of my life because the police laughed at me when I realized what a victim I’d become and the district attorney laughed because “no harm was done.”


The breast cancer diagnosis I got in June 2018 (early stage, no chemo) finally broke me open. I had to trust a whole new medical team to be kind and gentle and skilled — from the tiny black dot tattoos they put on your skin to guide the radiation machine to the techs who lay me face down there daily for 20 days.

Journalism is an odd business — because my role is to win trust fast from total strangers.

How un-natural!

But I’ve learned how to do that and I’m good at it. Mostly it requires empathy. Really listening carefully without judgment.

There’s also now a very deep and widespread mistrust of journalists, which really upsets me. The monster who screamed FAKE NEWS at us for four years made sure of that.

So we’re really at a crisis point when it comes to trust.

I’m not at all sure how we re-build it.

10 thoughts on “It’s a matter of trust

  1. Excellent article Caitlin…what struck a cord with me was the comment, “The end result is going to be a shrinking of our previously-widening circle of trust.” What has happened in our country with the shrinking of journalism (especially investigative) and the rise of tribalism brings, in my mind, the conversation about “trust” to the forefront. We may not like our leaders decision making process, the corruption of the VOTE and the deterioration of legitimate journalism outlets. But we can’t lose trust (or hope) as one of our sacred virtues for this 200+ year experiment in democracy. Thanks for shining a light on it!

    1. Thanks! It’s a very scary time to be a journalist as so many — especially women — are under attack for anything we write and that chilling effect is very worrying as well as we begin to self-censor to stay safe.

  2. I understand. I got mixed up with a narcissist who just wanted money, a roof over his head and perhaps my life insurance. We both ended up with great guys, though. 🙂

    He of the tiny hands and minute dongle did so much damage and continues to inflict it, from what I can tell. I hope he winds up in an orange jumpsuit. It’s where he belongs.

  3. Jan Jasper

    Another excellent blog post, Caitlin. In addition to all of the trust issues that we face when looking for love, now there’s the added situation of of covid. Even if one is fully vaccinated, because of the variants, we still have to be careful. I talked to a guy who told me how careful he was re: Covid. (This was last fall, so no vaccine available yet.) But as I talked to him more it became obvious that he was going out and socializing, unmasked, way more than he’d stated. Once I saw that he was that dishonest, I lost interest. I guess you could say that’s an issue even without Covid, i.e good riddance to him.

      1. Jan Jasper

        I had my first Moderna jab a few weeks ago and I get the second one next week. Very very excited!

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