MIAMI, FL / ACCESSWIRE / July 1, 2021 / The past year has seen so many new uses for the word ‘social' that at times it's been hard to keep up. Social distancing, social isolation, and social responsibility are just a few examples we've become accustomed to in a time where the spread of COVID-19 has incurred drastic changes to nearly every aspect of our lives. Yet, among these now-familiar phrases, one, in particular, has been conspicuously absent: Social Trust.
"The longer we've been required to stay apart from one another, the more I've come to realize how much I had taken my ability to trust strangers, colleagues, and family members for granted," notes Jozef Opdeweegh. "In the early days of the pandemic, and in the absence of full information, it was natural that we focused on our immediate needs and responsibilities while taking measures to keep our loved ones out of risk. But I wonder if you can also recall the uncertainty and the fear-and how this at times led to selfish behavior that undermined the community effort we needed to pull together."
Jozef Opdweegh also notes that reflecting on the role of social trust throughout the pandemic has reminded many of how intricate our personal relationships are, and how trust is so essential to our collective wellbeing. This, in turn, prompts thoughts on how we might harness these to increase our productivity and emotional resilience.
What Social Trust Means to Us
Even if you've never explicitly defined social trust, the concept is something we all practice every day. It stems from an intrinsic belief in the goodness of others. It might vary from person to person, but it's mostly defined as "having faith in people."
In a business or start-up context, the need for social trust is essential. A manager or an entrepreneur has to trust their team to work effectively. We need to trust our suppliers too, and our banks, our customers, our investors… Indeed, studies have shown that a lack of trust can lead to significantly worse economic and mental outcomes for whole countries.
"Similarly, in a personal setting, our levels of social trust drastically impact the quality of our relationships and feelings of safety and comfort-trust is, therefore, a critical ingredient of leading a full and successful life, and few events have both demonstrated and tested this more clearly than the uncertainties of the COVID-19 Pandemic," explains Jozef Opdeweegh.
Maintaining Trust through COVID-19
Through the past year, much of our community's safety with regards to the transmission of the dangerous COVID-19 virus has depended on our levels of mutual trust. With international health services providing recommendations for new norms and guidelines for each of us to uphold, we depended on our neighbors to listen to the experts and avoid unnecessary risks.
"At an anecdotal level, the experience of gauging mutual trust between friends, family, and business partners was something nearly everyone experienced through the pandemic. With higher levels of trust, alongside some creative thinking, we were able to find ways to carry on as near to normal as possible while ensuring risk was minimized," says Jozef Opdeweegh. "I'm sure we all experienced times when we struggled to move forward, when things got particularly hard or confusing-but being able to trust in the actions of others, especially colleagues, friends and family, helps us to focus on a collective future."
The importance of this social trust has even been echoed in statistical analyses of the pandemic. A recent research article from Middlesex University asserted that higher levels of social trust helped slow levels of COVID-19 transmission. Trusting each other, as well as our international public health experts, has been an essential part of weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vaccines Need Trust Too
With millions of people across the globe now receiving their vaccinations, the goalposts for what it means to be able to trust one another have shifted once more. The debates about the efficacy of lockdowns versus shielding the vulnerable have fallen away as we work together to deliver a communal immunity based on science and medicine.
Nonetheless, it has required a monumental campaign to develop the social trust in populations and communities in order to allow medical professionals to administer these life-saving shots. In tandem, there's been an extensive educational campaign to help people understand-and confirm to one another-that this incredible achievement is capable of returning our lives to normality.
Contrast this achievement to the anti-vaxxers who seek still to disrupt our confidence, playing on unsubstantiated fears in a way that rejects progress and undermines our trust in institutions, in science and each other.
"Ultimately trust has won the day-and we have the opportunity to reopen life as it was, with a confidence and joy that we'd not seen in months," explains Jozef Opdweegh. "This one example that reveals how effective and essential social trust is to our lives - and how without it, we are lost."
For many of us, life is rapidly approaching a level of pre-pandemic normality. The objective now is to understand and build on the lessons we have learned over the course of the past year.
"I believe that developing a stronger sense of social trust is one of the best ways to improve ourselves, our relationships, and our world going forward," says Jozef Opdweegh.
If we can trust one another more, we can improve not only our productivity but also our quality of life. Working on skills such as honest and frank communication, making time for those who need your assistance, and developing your capabilities as respectful listeners are all ways to help those around us know they can trust in our intentions. In turn, by setting a leading example of what effective trust looks like, our peers, friends, and family will realize these same behaviors can enhance their lives and relationships too.
The criticality of social trust is a central lesson and powerful tool to emerge from the pandemic. As we remove restrictions and learn to live with the virus, more lessons will no doubt appear. We must pursue them to the fullest extent and to do that requires that we teach and trust each other as we move forward together.
For more insights on lessons learned in leadership throughout the pandemic, read Jozef Opdeweegh on Steps to Cultivate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership in 2021.
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SOURCE: Jozef Opdeweegh