Posted on

Trust, privacy, and publishing

There have been a number of comments on my post about trust, written after four weeks in China, where the word comes up a lot, and in response to a speech by Steven M. R. Covey at the SIIA Content Forum. Charlie Terry kindly provided some phrases from a real contract that show just how much our legal system is based on a lack of trust.

The most popular phrase from all the popular lyrics ever written according to a survey run by the ((Will you trust me that there really was such a survey, without my having to go online and try to find it?)) is the Beatles’s “Love is all you need.” Love comes first, no doubt, but I don’t think it’s all we need. And I’m beginning to think that trust may run a close second (and probably comes up in plenty of pop lyrics, too, though as everyone who knows me knows, I couldn’t quote three pop lyrics to save my life).

Surely we care about trust because we don’t feel we have enough of it. That’s true in contracts, so it’s true in negotiations. What about in leadership? Can we trust our leaders to keep their promises and behave ethically (and not stuff money into their own bank accounts or those of their friends)? Probably not. Can employees trust their bosses to be fair and honest? Apparently not, from what Covey was saying.

Trust comes into blogging, too. Astute readers will have noticed that while I wrote quite a lot fromChina, I didn’t say all that much about the meetings I had or whom I was talking to. For all you know, I was just shopping and having manicures.

In fact, I was just exercising more caution than usual. I am conscious when I write here that I need to think of confidentiality, but trust on a blog goes beyond business risk. It’s about relationships. In the past, no one could go to a meeting or a conference and immediately publicize details of conversations they had or whom they saw walking past. People who blog, and comment on blogs, get to be a bit more relaxed about privacy, and we know that there are many people who like the idea of publicizing details of their daily activities. But once or twice I’ve had someone react strongly to the idea that even something I thought was totally innocuous should be included in a post. I want to respect colleagues’ and staffers’ wishes, and while I’ve never removed anything, I am careful, and conscious of how much I reveal – because I am grateful for the information and insights people so often share with me, as I badger them with questions, and I want them to feel they can trust me.

On the other hand, I’m a writer who has always used anecdotes about friends and family. I started my first book with the story of how horrified my friends were when they heard I had been commissioned to write an environmental book, and all because of what I saw as a minor detail, the fact that I didn’t know anything about the subject.

I figure it’s up to me if I want to expose my own ignorance (and, I suppose, hubris ((After the book was published, someone asked me how many people I’d had on my research team, which made me feel some justification.)) ), but I wouldn’t want to write anything like that about another person without their permission, even if it’s a funny or instructive story. If you find me saying only, “a colleague,” it’s probably because I don’t feel sure that they would want to be identified. And I feel even more conscious about trust when it comes to discussions and negotiations I’ve had inChina. For events like the BookExpo panel on “Doing Business inChina” I’ll probably come up with some apocryphal tales to illustrate my points.

Finally, a message I got when doing something or other in WordPress, “Something strange happened. Try refreshing the page.” Doesn’t this straight-talking text make you feel you can trust the writer? Because we all know that when it comes to computers, strange things do happen. Authorial trust – in nonfiction and in fiction – is another fascinating subject, and one I’ll get to before long!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *