U.S. statesman Henry L. Stimson once said, “The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him.” Whether you readily agree with that perspective or not may depend a lot on your personality traits.
We asked our readers to agree or disagree with the statement, “You think most people are trustworthy,” in hopes of discovering a baseline attitude – which personality types start from a place of believing that most people can be trusted, and which don’t? Which ones might give their trust relatively freely, and which are likely to make others earn it?
Overall, the results were neutral, with barely over half of our readers agreeing with the statement. But two personality traits emerged as key factors in readers’ attitudes toward trustworthiness – the Feeling and Extravert traits – and several types demonstrated strong positions on the topic.
Let’s take a closer look at how the results broke down below.
Diplomats (59% agreeing)
Diplomats, marked by their core Feeling trait, revealed themselves to be the most trusting among our community, relying on emotions and intuition to guide their sense of trust. Personality types with the Feeling trait typically seek harmonious relationships and, therefore, may be more charitable in how they perceive others and have a more optimistic view of human nature in general. Diplomats in particular work to build trust, not just in their own interpersonal relationships but between other groups as well – after all, successful diplomacy is impossible without trust.
The personality type most likely to give everyone the benefit of the doubt was the social and free-spirited Assertive Campaigner, agreeing at a rate of 71%. Campaigners thrive on the social and emotional connections that they form with others; they’d hardly be able to function if they weren’t starting from a basic belief that most people are trustworthy.
Explorers and Sentinels (53% each)
Explorers and Sentinels, matched in their agreement, are not inherently defined by either the Feeling or the Thinking trait and thus fell between Diplomats and Analysts. Overall, personality types with the Feeling trait were 21% more likely to agree that most people are trustworthy than types with the Thinking trait, and that disparity is evident in the responses of these two Roles.
Ask members of these Roles whether, for instance, they would stay with a complete stranger in his or her Airbnb home, and an Entertainer personality (64%) will probably be quick to jump at an exciting chance for a new experience, while a Logistician (31%) will require a lot more information – details, reviews, photos, maybe even a conversation with the host – before they could begin to make a decision.
It isn’t surprising that Thinking types, who deal with the world more rationally and decide things using careful analysis, are less willing to blindly accept the trustworthiness of others. Interestingly, although Analysts showed the lowest agreement as a Role, among individual personality types, it was an Explorer – the Turbulent Virtuoso (27%) – that agreed the least of all. Virtuosos are generally more interested in working on hands-on problems than in developing emotional connections, and on top of that, they tend to be quite private, a quality that makes trusting others naturally challenging.
From an Analyst’s point of view, there is little reason, logically, to grant or deny trust without any factual knowledge of a person. Because they aren’t basing their first impressions on emotions, Analyst personality types may be fairly indifferent to the question of trustworthiness, at least until someone has done something to demonstrate that they can or cannot be trusted.
Among Analysts, the Architects (28%) proved to be the most distrustful. Architect personalities tend to take a relatively pessimistic view of human nature. For them, the assumption that people are untrustworthy may seem like a sensible starting hypothesis to prove or disprove on an individual basis. Each observation of or interaction with another person is another piece of evidence that they will consider as they slowly develop a relationship over time.
People Mastery and Social Engagement (61% and 58% agreeing)
The difference between Extraverts (60%) and Introverts (46%) in this survey, though not as drastic as that between Feeling and Thinking personality types, is still noteworthy. Extraverts are drawn to others for stimulation and energy. This obviously requires some trust. After all, distrustful people probably make a point of keeping others at arms’ length. Since Extraverted personalities draw energy from social interaction, it would seem that many either don’t question the trustworthiness of others or perhaps unconsciously override such worries in favor of their social needs.
As such, we saw the highest responses from members of the People Mastery and Social Engagement Strategies, both of which are characterized by Extraversion. People Masters are optimistic and very socially confident, relying on their keen intuition and sharp social perceptions to make quick judgments. Although Social Engagers may be slightly more cautious, both groups are generally willing to take some risks with trust, in hopes of gaining greater social interconnectedness.
Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement (48% and 44%)
To a lesser extent, the Assertive trait also came into play in this survey, with Assertive personality types (56%) having a small edge over Turbulent types (50%). Assertive people are relaxed and don’t let many things bother them. They are confident and feel that they can handle whatever comes along, so they may not be very interested in labeling others as trustworthy or untrustworthy in the first place.
Still, Introversion was a greater factor and explains the lower responses of the Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement Strategies. Introverted personalities feel a greater need to protect themselves and often need a long time to get to know people well enough to let them into their lives. Confident Individualists’ combination of Introvert and Assertive traits drives them to rely on themselves before anyone else as a matter of course. Constant Improvers, whose Turbulent trait makes them susceptible to emotional instability, need reassurance that they are safe before they can trust others, especially if they’ve been betrayed by someone before.
For those who feel that most people are trustworthy, it might be as much about desiring to believe in people’s good natures as it is about actual trustworthiness. Those of us who connect more easily through our emotions may not want to go through life fretting that every person we cross paths with could betray or disappoint us; such an attitude can certainly be a drain on our energy. It can be far more satisfying to approach trust with a stronger sense of optimism, especially for those who prefer rich social contact.
Of course, it’s understandable that some of us just aren’t comfortable trusting others freely, whether it’s because we don’t know them well, because we don’t crave such intimate connections, or simply because we don’t want to risk being hurt. But even for those of us who start from this baseline, it is possible to form trusting, rewarding relationships, no matter how slowly or carefully we need to open ourselves to them.
What do you think – can most people be trusted? How are your instincts on trustworthiness influenced by your personality? Share your thoughts in the comments below.