Designing For Trust: Dan Ariely at TEDxPorto (Transcript)

So the second advice about creating trust is think about the cases where you can show somebody that you really care and show that you prefer their benefit to your benefit. There’s a not-so-funny joke that says, “Why do women like diamond rings?”

Why do women like diamond rings?

And the answer is “Because men hate buying them.”

Now what is the point about this? The point is, imagine you buy your loved one a digital camera. You come home and you say, “Darling, I love you so much: here is a digital camera.”

Who are you buying it for? Unclear. You are like the waiter with the lobster; it’s unclear who you’re working for. But if you buy them something that you clearly hate, now it’s a good sign of pure love. There’s no other explanation for this.

So when you get a chance, think about how to show love and caring with something that is not confusing as a signal. So we said that trust is important and we want to create a high level of trust. But from time to time, things are going to go wrong.

The question is: How do we not get into a deterioration?

And I’ll tell you a personal story. I deeply trust everybody I worked with. I did a project with somebody, and at some point towards the end, I decided the project was not going in a good direction, and I stopped it.

That person told me she already had lots of expenses she had to pay, and she’d spent a lot of time and money on this. She gave me a very expensive bill to pay for this.

And I paid, and then I found out she’d spent much less money than she told me, and then I found out that the contract she had was different than she told me; lots of things about that really upset me and offended me.

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My first instinct was “I don’t want to feel like this again.” I don’t want to feel bad like this again, and then I thought, “Should I start having contracts with everybody?”

Because when I started working with her, I didn’t do any contract; it was all a handshake agreement. I love working with handshake agreements. I thought, “Should I start having contracts?” Think about what having contracts with everybody means. It would mean that one bad incident would get me to start doubting everybody I work with.

But the thing about trust is that when trust really works, we don’t notice it as much. And I thought about all the wonderful relationships I have and all the wonderful people I work with and how much trust is allowing us to behave better, how much trust is allowing us to get to a much higher equilibrium.

I decided that from time to time, things are going to go wrong, and I’ll have the instinct to try and protect myself and say that I never want to feel like this again and to surround myself with security and blankets and contracts, but I’m going to try and resist this.

Because trust is wonderful. Trust is wonderful: we need to recognize it; we need to work towards it. We need to create mechanisms that will allow us to create trust. And from time to time, things are going to go wrong. Then we need to fight our own instinct to try and protect ourselves.

But the good news is that if we get to have higher trust, it is certainly worth it.

Thank you very much.


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