How many times during your life have you heard a salesperson, investment advisor or, for that matter, a lawyer tell you that you should “trust me.” How many times have you seen advertisements, even by lawyers, who say that they should be “trusted?” What has been your experience with those persons who freely and loosely use that word?

The origin of the word trust is from Middle English, probably of Scandinavian origin, and the first known use was in the 13th Century. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines trust as “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” It further goes on to suggest that the full definition of trust includes “an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something” and also “one who in which confidence is placed.”

When I first started practicing law some forty-five years ago, the complaint at that time among lawyers was that it is not like the old days where you could trust someone on his word. Now they would say you need a written agreement with no holes in it in order to enforce the word of an attorney. As time has gone on, and with the advent of the push button technological age, instant remuneration and/or reward has replaced loyalty and fairness and, in some instances, trust. When I am dealing with an insurance salesman who tells me that his product is the best on the market and says “trust me,” my experience is that he is not to be trusted because I know better. When the car salesman tells me that this is the lowest price you will get on the purchase of a new car in your geographical area and says “trust me or I am to be trusted,” and I know better, it sends up red flags as if I was at Nascar event. Most importantly, when a lawyer has to suggest that he or she is to be “trusted,” the Code of Professional Responsibility requires such trust imbued upon the attorney-client relationship. My experience and those of many who I know, is that you should head for the hills. For example, the ABA canons of professional ethics suggests “that a lawyer’s fiduciary duty is of the highest order and he must not represent interests adverse to those of the client. It is true that because of his professional responsibility and the confidence and trust which his client may legitimately repose in him, he must adhere to a high standard of honesty, integrity and good faith in dealing with his client. He is not permitted to take advantage of his position or superior knowledge to impose upon his client nor to conceal facts or law nor in any way deceive them without being held responsible therefore.”

Why then, I ask, would anyone want to use the word trust or trusted in a relationship where that is assumed to be the case. Why does one have to use the word trusted in order to convince others that he or she is to be trusted. In fact, my experience has been that people that sometimes use the word trusted or trust are not “reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.,” but rather think in terms of “what is the best for me now, money talks and what have you done for me today” exhibiting little or no loyalty. This is important in developing any human relationship that we have on a day to day basis, whether it be in business or personal. When the unfaithful says to his wife, trust me dear I was late at a condo meeting, and the wife, because of her feminine intuition knows otherwise, more red flags go up and the trust which is essential to any relationship, including a successful marriage, goes out the window.

Why am I writing about trust and the word trusted? It is because most of us have been subjected to a situation in our lifetime, whether it be in business or personal, where the word trust or trusted was merely a camouflage for deceit, disloyalty, dishonesty and avarice. Your comments are appreciated.
By: Robert M. Meisner
Fellow, College of Community Association Lawyers