Trust Is Not Enough

It used to be that whether you trusted someone depended on how trusting you are in general and what you know about the other person. New research from two Wharton academics indicates that that’s no longer the case. Incidental emotions — how you feel in the moment because of something that just happened — can also encourage or discourage trust.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, indicates that this has two applications in the business world. One, situations can be subtly manipulated by using “non-task communication.” Think of the sales call that kicks off with small talk about the big game, the upcoming holiday, or something else uplifting. And two, if people are aware of their emotions, they impact decision making — and trust — less.

Networking Resource Center columnist Keith Ferrazzi has written about instant intimacy. Martin Seligman concentrates on learned optimism, which entails being aware of your emotions. But how far do we take this? Would being late to work because of a slow train affect whether I trust you?