George P. Schultz (1920-2021) wrote an Opinion piece for the Washington Post titled The 10 most important things I’ve learned about trust over my 100 years (December 11, 2020).

« Dec. 13 marks my turning 100 years young. I’ve learned much over that time, but looking back, I’m struck that there is one lesson I learned early and then relearned over and over: Trust is the coin of the realm. When trust was in the room, whatever room that was — the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room — good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details. »

#7. « Often in my career, I saw that genuine empathy is essential in establishing solid, trusting relationships. In 1973, when I was treasury secretary, I attended a wreath-laying ceremony at a World War II memorial in Leningrad with the Soviet foreign trade minister, Nikolai Patolichev. As we walked, Patolichev, a tough old guy, described the staggering death toll in the Battle of Leningrad. Tears streamed down his face, and his interpreter was sobbing. When we were about to leave, I said to Patolichev, “I, too, fought in World War II and had friends killed beside me.” Looking out over the cemetery, I added, “After all, these were the soldiers who defeated Hitler.” Facing the cemetery, I raised my best Marine salute, and Patolichev thanked me for the show of respect. Later on, to my surprise, I found that I had earned the trust of Soviet leaders as a result of this visit.»

#8. « One day, as secretary of state in the Reagan administration, I brought a draft foreign policy speech to the Oval Office for Reagan to review. He read the speech and said, “That’s fine,” but then began marking it up. In the margin on one page, he wrote “story.” I asked what he meant. “That’s the most important point,” he said. Adding a relevant story will “engage your readers. That way, you’ll appeal not only to their minds but to their emotions.” Telling a story, he made me understand, helps make your case in a way that no abstraction can: A story builds an emotional bond, and emotional bonds build trust. »

#9. « Reagan brought his own ideas about trust to Cold War adversarial relations. He nurtured a trusting relationship with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, one that basically helped to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear weapons. Reagan’s famous formulation: Trust, but verify. The agreement was self-bolstering, because successful verification enhanced the sense of trust, and greater trust promoted verification. »

George P. Schultz served as U.S. secretary of labor, treasury and state; director of the Office of Management and Budget; and as a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He wrote as book titled Learning From Experience (2016).

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