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Home » What Drug Dealers Taught Me About Trust: Pamela Barnum (Transcript)

What Drug Dealers Taught Me About Trust: Pamela Barnum (Transcript)

Pamela Barnum at TEDxCollingwood

Following is the full text of former undercover police officer Pamela Barnum’s talk titled “What Drug Dealers Taught Me About Trust” at TEDxCollingwood conference. In this talk, she shares three trust hacks she learned while working in dangerous and unpredictable situations that we can apply in our everyday lives.


Can I trust you? This question has the potential to impact every part of our lives, from who we love to how we learn, how we take care of our health and invest our money.

And, if mastered, building trust strengthens relationships and can improve our health and lead to more financial success.

Now, it may seem strange to learn about trust from someone who spent an entire career pretending to be someone she wasn’t. For years, I woke up and stepped into an underworld, and sometimes in leather pants, that could not know who I was.

Being beaten, raped or even killed were possibilities if that was the day a drug dealer found out that I was an undercover police officer.

What’s even stranger is that, unlike in the movies, I rarely carried a gun, and I never wore a wire for my protection. Trust — and the ability to build and maintain trust — was the only weapon I used.

My goal is to present a learnable skill to you so that you can then build the foundation of trust around everything you do because when you leverage trust hacks, it makes risky, stressful relationships easier, even the ones with your in-laws.

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