FEATURE ARTICLE

Saturday, June 23, 2018
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IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES: THE COST OF DISTRUST

fter much rigmarole, a friend shared her desire to move to Maryland. She had several questions - where are the better yet affordable neighborhoods? In which good schools can she place her young children? Which are the best communities for people of color? Where can she live to avoid the morning gridlock of traffic? This last one was her most pressing concern. Coming from a city where the most severe holdup is a fifteen-minute traffic crawl at 5:00 pm, this would be the biggest challenge.

Upon hearing her questions, I asked one of my own? "Do you know anyone in Maryland?

"Yes, but I don't want to tell them anything until after we're settled there."

"Why?"

"You know, I don't want to raise their expectations. What if I change my mind?"

What she didn't say was she didn't want her "friends" nosing around in her business. They might stir her away from areas where they're doing well themselves for fear of competition. They might even dissuade her from making the move. She distrusted her frenemies.

This distrust permeates our relations with one another and costs us tremendously even in our professional lives. We number amongst those with the most degrees in the US yet are unable to produce a requisite number of doctors. Many come to the US with their MD degrees, complete additional training here yet are unable to get residencies because they lack connections. In addition, distrust causes:

Clustering at survival level because there's no one to give you a hand up. Or remaining at that level because you don't want to attract leeches like the sister who refused to buy a house with a basement after her cousins came for a week and stayed a year.

Isolation: Stuff happens, and when they do, they are severely impactful a thousand miles from home. But because you trust no one, you have none to call on. Further, isolation is a fatal tool in the hands of an abuser. First s/he creates isolation, then intimidation, domination, and even annihilation.

Cover up of crimes: Sometimes, we know the shady characters amongst us but, to whom do we report without becoming targets? Yet, prevention is community work, not police work.

Hardness of heart: People get burnt out when they proffer trust and their trust is broken. Next time, they would not trust so readily; they wouldn't even see the opportunity to extend trust.

In contrast, Indians connect with their medical school graduates, get them into residency programs, and form generational partnerships. Similarly, they are more successful in IT than we are because they trust and respect one another. One gets hired as a Project Manager, he recommends his friend as the best Business Analyst for the project because he's done similar projects before, knows what to do, has vast experience, etc. Then he goes home to coach his unemployed friend, who has zero experience, what to say during the interview, how to act, and with whom to connect. When the friend gets on the job, the coaching intensifies. Along with others, he begins to train the friend in the processes of that business. Every minute of the work day and beyond, there's someone on hand to answer the newbie's questions. And when he's established, he brings in his cousin.

Trust builds community.

This is not to suggest you trust everyone. Trust must be earned. Extend trust to those in whom you observe respect and capability. A lazy person will not get to a job you recommended her for and start performing wonders. Likewise, a thief before elections… However, don't close yourself off, tarring everyone with the same brush otherwise, you'd lose opportunities to help and be helped.

Respect - When someone is vulnerable enough to trust you with an introduction, a referral, or a job opportunity, rise to the occasion. Respect the opportunity provider and yourself. Don't spoil the place and thereby shut it down for others.


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