Trust can be easily reversed
How important is the trust factor to you? Where I grew up, most people want to be trusted and accepted.
It is a universal human need to love and be loved. This is true of intra-cultural relationships and cross-cultural relationships. However, the latter, because of the added need to understand where one another is coming from, cross-cultural relationships usually need extra time and effort.

Most of us have experienced that feeling you get when you are being lied to. Do you think you're being lied to again? I have learned over the years to try to understand the other person and his/her behavior, but to avoid being naïve.

Let me share an example from a workplace setting: The other day I found myself in a situation where I knew the other person was not being honest about the information she was giving. I really wanted to let her know that I knew the facts and that she was lying. But I held my tongue and just listened. I reminded myself where I was, i.e., geographically speaking, and tried to see through her eyes why she was telling me this.

Whether it is work or personal, one of the biggest challenges an expat faces is knowing how to react when they come across unusual behaviors in the other culture that could seem merely amusing, distasteful, dishonest or maybe even punishably criminal. I have noticed that how you respond in your own culture may be different from where you are now. It's important to observe what the appropriate social consequences are for unacceptable behavior. Like most places, it can vary widely between, and even within, different parts of society. Of course, there are certain things that are across the board taboo!

Those who have moved into another culture to live and work, or who have married someone of a different nationality, face similar challenges in understanding group dynamics and building personal relationships. In order to live and work successfully cross-culturally, it helps to be "interculturally competent." In my piece "Pyramid relationships" (Oct. 30, 2011), I mentioned that Bronislaw Malinowski was considered a forerunner of cultural anthropology and had developed a model known as the interpersonal pyramid. I explained how his work took into consideration the human and historical aspects of society and suggested a psychological trait to cultural facts.

Malinowski's theory on the interpersonal pyramid consists of five levels: satisfaction, trust, disclosure, acceptance and apprentice. A person's "need satisfaction" forms the foundation for interpersonal relationships. As you build trust, the other person will intentionally share his need and accept help. You see that each of Malinwoski's levels are successive steps and can in time be encountered in a relationship. The next step, known as disclosure, deals with making ourselves known to another person who we feel is important. I want to emphasize that in a work situation, there is a real risk of personal damage and should be practiced indecorously. Acceptance is something we all want; however, each culture defines how this will be communicated and established. For example, the North American shakes hands with one he respects and accepts. In Turkey this is true. However, in some Middle Eastern and Asian countries, you'll notice a person will hold hands with the one he accepts (even another male). The final step, apprenticeship, is the peak of the interpersonal pyramid. This level is the point at which people encourage one another to grow in being the best they can be.

Recently, I have noticed advertisements for private detectives around. I have always thought they tried to keep a low profile. It struck me as funny the other day when I saw, yet again, bright flashing lights in an office window with the words "Private Detective." Not too long ago when I returned to my car I found a brochure advertising a detective agency on the windshield. The brochure listed all of the services the agency offered, including such activities as following your spouse, business partner, work colleagues or family members to provide the necessary personal information to help you demonstrate the facts in your settlement case for divorce, inheritance, etc. It seems that private detective agencies are in demand.

This is an indication of the lack of trust.

The time involved in building a trusting relationship can vary. One thing is certain: Trust can be difficult to develop and can be easily reversed.

Dorothy Rowe, author of "Why We Lie: The Source of our Disasters" wrote, "Lies destroy mutual trust, and fragment our sense of who we are."

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of "Culture Smart: Turkey" 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today's Zaman's readers. Email:

Last Modified: 2012-11-30 10:00:02
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