Trust in another person is commonly defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truthfulness, capability, and so forth of another. And from there, “Good relationships must be built on trust.”
But truthfully, when we talk about trust, we are talking about vulnerability, and we are talking about how much vulnerability we will allow into our lives at a particular moment or with a certain person or organization.
The more a patient trusts us, the more they are allowing themselves to be potentially hurt- they have made a risk/benefit analysis with their right brain and have perhaps decided to throw the dice. Conversely, when patients do not trust us very much, they allow for minimal vulnerability- and that could be on the physical, emotional, financial, or all three levels.
So, when a patient says, “no” to allowing us to take x-rays, or to a proper restoration, or some another appropriate procedure, they are often saying, “I don’t trust you yet,” and we often take this instinct of self-preservation personally, and then project our feelings onto it…all damaging and unproductive.
A better approach would be to empathetically explore why, and search for some common ground in shared goals and values toward health.
So, “No” often means “Not yet,” as in, “You have not yet convinced me that I should allow myself to be that vulnerable around you.”
And then juxtaposed to our patient’s level of trust -is our’s. Can WE trust their decision-making ability enough to invest a lot of our time, energy, and money into helping them fully learn about their situation, and fully understand their choices, as well as allow them the time and space to decide for themselves what is in their best interest and when?
So, it is “all about trust” – isn’t it? Trust is an emotionally-driven dance which will either bring us closer together or father apart over time.
Paul A. Henny, DDS
Thought Experiments LLC, © 2018
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