Are sincerity and trust simply economic tools?

Here’s a provocative question from Charles H. Green, in his article Faking It Doesn’t Make It: “Have we succeeded in faking sincerity so well that we have fooled ourselves?” It’s not just sincerity either. The whole business of “spin” is an elaborate exercise in faking it that began with politicians and seems to have spread to the business world.

Here’s what Charlie says:

Business is becoming adept at mouthing sincerities about relationships —but in service to itself, not to the nominal objects of those relationships — customers, suppliers, employees.

We seem to have slipped into a false and debased Darwinian view of the world — especially the world of business — where everything is simply a means to winning in the competitive stakes; all is fair, it seems, in love, war, and making money.

I say this is a debased understanding of Darwin’s ideas, because, if you look around the natural world, you find very few instances of all-out competition, and many of collaboration and altruism. It takes only a moment’s though to see that, if all the individuals in a species competed without restraint, you would be left with only one or two “winners” and the species would become extinct as a result. Survival of the fittest is far more likely to demand collaboration and the building of trust, not destroy it. Faking sincerity almost always leads in time to being caught out and destroying any trust others had in you.

Collaboration is the only long-term means of survival. It’s only our stupid love-affair with short-term thinking that lets us believe that having winning over others as out sole goal makes any sense. We’re all disciples of Machiavelli, it seems, believing that anything is worth sacrificing — sincerity, trust, honesty, altruism — on the altar of coming in first.


As Charlie Green writes:

. . . relationships aren’t means to an end — relationships are the end. Successful businesses are the consequences, outcomes, byproducts of successful relationships. The world is dragging us toward collaboration; but our belief systems are still rooted in competition.

Surely it’s time to expose this dangerous nonsense for what it is: a swift road to ruin, misery, and corporate extinction.

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