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.
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.