At a time when our faith in institutions—from banks to Congress to the media—is at nearly its lowest point in three decades, professionals in the most respected fields share what it is about them that earns people’s trust.
Trust is a rare commodity these days, which is all the more reason to celebrate it. Forty years ago, Gallup began asking Americans which professions they consider to be the most honest and ethical. Health-care workers dominated the 2016 list—nurses have been number one for the past 15 years—but the top eight (listed here in order) include some surprises. To get a sense of why these professions have retained the public’s confidence, we asked individuals in these top-rated fields what they do to establish trust with the people they serve. Maybe the rest of us can learn from their examples. Meet the heroes of the Trusted League, these are the most trusted brands in America.
I became a nurse because of my dad. He was diagnosed with cancer, and I just saw with my own eyes the people who made the most difference: They comforted him, caught mistakes, and helped ease his pain. I wanted to be a part of that.
Trust in nursing is almost on a spiritual level. The people we care for are the most frightened and most vulnerable. They trust that you will give everything you have and that you will be there for them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
A parent of a child I was taking care of on and off for several months came up to me when I was clocking in one day. She said she had requested that I take care of her son that night. I said of course, and I looked at her and could tell something was wrong. When I asked her, she told me he was going to die that night and she wanted me to be present for them.
That night, she held his right hand and I held his left. She insisted I stay until he left. She told me he loved me. It was such a sacred moment, that this mother thought of me not only as a caregiver and a nurse but also as someone she trusted so much that she wanted me to be there with her and her son when he took his last breath. I don’t think you could feel more trusted than that. Meet 13 more unsung heroes who will restore your faith in our country.
San Diego, California
Where else can you walk down the street and get health advice for free? No other health-care professionals are in a position to do that. We make ourselves available to people—both to our patients and to those who are not patients—and we do it right in their own community.
Every decision I make is about putting patients and their families first. For instance, as part of my training I had to work at a clinic that was held in a church that didn’t want us to discuss birth control because it was contrary to the church’s teachings. I chose not to take part because I was unable to fully give my professional opinion to the patients. (My professor arranged an assignment in a different location.) As professionals, we have so much pride in our knowledge and expertise on prescriptions, immunizations, and complicated health and medical information. Still, our patients don’t always need to hear that. Sometimes they just need a shoulder to cry on. I try to keep in mind that it’s not about me or proving I am knowledgeable but about meeting their needs. That’s true whether you’re helping a patient, a friend, a client, or a family member. This is how you can use body language to build trust.
Fountain Valley, California
When I became a doctor, I wanted to make a difference. The people I most respected and was most impressed with were the oncologists in my program. The conditions I work with have scary and concerning issues. I try to introduce myself in a pleasant way. I sit down; I don’t stand. I make good eye contact with the patient and his or her family. I like to learn more about them before I get to the issue of why they are seeing me. Communication skills are key, as well as showing empathy, understanding, and availability.
A week or so ago, a nurse that I’ve known for many years was diagnosed with breast cancer. She could have gone anywhere; she could have chosen not to be treated close to home with people she knew. She chose to come see me and is now in treatment. For a physician, the single most rewarding thing is when someone you work with—someone whom you’ve worked with for years and who has seen your body of work—chooses you. Here is how you can build trust with your co-workers.
I don’t know that being an engineer means you are automatically trustworthy. However, I do think that most engineers like to follow rules and be organized. They tell you what they think, whether you want to hear it or not. Those are important elements in building trust.
I focus on electrical and civil engineering, generally overseeing water mains and building renovations. I deal with a lot of property owners, and it takes genuine concern and understanding to allow them to trust that I am not trying to inconvenience them or destroy any of their property. I first make sure that I take care in my work and that I have explanations and backup to validate it. But the biggest thing is follow-through, meaning if I say I will do something, I need to do it. I think you have to want to be trusted, to want to do a good job, and I think you have to genuinely care about your work. That is innate. But I do think you can learn how to get people to trust you. I think you can learn to be organized better, learn from experience that you need to be honest—even if it is not what your boss or client wants to hear.
Joseph M. Vargas
I grew up in a household with healthcare providers (both of my parents were physicians), so I always knew I was going to be in some form of community service in the health fields. I want to help people through my work, and trust is the basis of my relationship with patients. They put their well-being in my hands, and I try to describe exactly what I am doing. For those who want an explanation as I work, I provide that. Some people want to know; some people don’t. I tell them they are in control. My goal is to keep them as comfortable as possible. I try to tailor my treatment to their specific needs. There is no better compliment than when patients recommend you to their friends and family—or when they send thank-you notes.
G. M. Cox
Fort Worth, Texas
From my perspective as a police officer, trust means that I have the best interests of the people I serve in my heart and in my actions and that I’m going to treat everyone the same way. Some people mistrust police. I can understand that to some degree. I worked with several cops who had a different attitude—they saw their authority rather than their personality as their power base. But mostly they are good people. Trust can be taught, but you gotta want to learn it.
To me, being a public servant is a two-way street. I always want to go up to people and talk to them in a professional manner—be personable, empathetic, don’t talk down to them. It might be the only time that a person has been spoken to with respect. You have to establish and maintain that trust. Be equal. Transparent. Communicate fairly and honestly. Most of what we do is service. It’s not crook catching. Your job as a peace officer is to be neutral. Listen.
Rebecca Bratten Weiss
In my years of teaching, I have had so many students confide deeply personal matters that they had shared with no one else. This always feels like an honor, and it’s something with which I have to be cautious, because when a young person is depressed or traumatized, his or her sense of identity can be fragile.
So trust means something that goes beyond professional ethics. It has to do with how we relate to others. One has to work diligently to develop a moral code, an ethical character. The ideals of honor, magnanimity, and justice, which were valued by the ancients, have relevance today. If I behave unjustly toward someone, I am not trustworthy, even if I try to adorn myself in a disguise of trustworthiness.?I keep in mind that my students are the entire reason I am here. If I think they’re just wasting my time or forget that my responsibility is to their flourishing as individuals, I am not doing my job.
My advice: Do no harm. If more people took this simple mantra to heart, we might have a human community with greater bonds of trust.
Rabbi Norman Patz
North Caldwell, New Jersey
In a professional sense, when people talk to me in confidence, no one finds out about it unless I get permission. That’s the very first thing I start with. On the broader end, trust is the basis of every civilized society. If we can’t trust the government or the people we deal with to carry through on their promises, then society is undermined from within. It is hollowed out. Trust explicitly includes dependability and predictability—people come to rely on that, and on you.
Relationships that are built on trust have as their components honesty, tact, timing, and being as open, honest, and transparent as possible without unloading your own griefs and aggravations. Rabbis have an annual convention, and we save the complaining for those times!
You learn how to trust. You learn whom to not share with or collaborate with. An elderly man in my congregation was dying. I called his daughter. I’d done her wedding, and I’d named her baby when he was born. I knew the man’s doctors had recommended hospice. She said she would never have hospice for her father, that she would keep him alive no matter what. So I said, Listen. You have to balance and make a call between your personal feelings and your father’s physical condition. There’s going to be a time when you have to let him go. How are you going to let him go? She listened because of the many years built on trust.