Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do You Trust Me?

You're a handsome devil. What's your name?When I ventured my first tiny, baby steps onto the internet over four years ago, O Dearly Beloved, one of the first sites I stumbled across was Trust Matters, the blog of my friend Charles H. Green, the Trusted Advisor. Charlie, as the cleverer among you might be able to discern, makes a living writing and consulting about trust-based selling in particular and the role and nature of trust in business and life in general. I have followed his site off and on over the intervening years, first because he addresses issues I find thought-provoking in and of themselves, and second because a good salesman—which is what I style myself to be—is always looking for tools and techniques to improve his results. I have always found what Charlie has to say on the subject worth a read.

Anyway, Charlie approached me recently to ask if he could interview me for a series on trust that he was running on his site. Having caught me in an uncharacteristically equable mood, I agreed. (I blame the peyote.) The result can be found here. Charlie asked me lots of questions, about my industry, financial markets in general, and the role of trust in both. I pitched my answers at a relatively general level, in order not to suffocate Charlie's regular audience of normal human beings with too much jargon or insider arcana. I should also warn my regular readers that I behave quite differently there than I do here. (I would not want one of you to click over there and have an aneurysm from my lack of outrageous language or behavior.)

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There is one excerpt I thought would be useful to include on this site, since I do not think I have addressed this issue directly in these pages before, although I have done elsewhere: pseudonymous blogging. Here is what I have to say on that subject:

CHG: Let’s deal with one sideways issue, the question of anonymity. Some commenters on this blog have been critical of anonymous bloggers. I think anonymity can play some interesting roles, and in some ways can be critical. You’re an anonymous blogger; your view on the subject?

TED: Anonymity can indeed foster all sorts of bad, irresponsible behavior, and I am not in favor of it in general. But blogging (or even commenting on another blog) under a pseudonym, as I do, is very different. Anonymity means no identity; pseudonymity means a false or assumed identity.

For one thing, operating under a pseudonym allows one to build up a corpus of opinion that can be judged in toto. Third parties can develop an opinion of your credibility and the value of your opinions for the very reason that you present a consistent identity, that you do in fact have a name. That this name is false, and a mask, is more a matter of convenience and perhaps professional necessity than it is of deception.

If people judge my words and opinions interesting, provocative, and worthy, it does not really matter whether they know me as TED or Joe Smith. One can always worry that a pseudonymous commenter or blogger has an ulterior agenda, but I suspect that is both hard to conceal over a long period of time (I have been blogging for over four years) and, frankly, beside the point. I challenge you to find anyone commenting in public who does not have at least one unstated agenda. And yet we should be able to judge and evaluate each other’s contributions nonetheless.

I claim to be an investment banker with over 20 years experience in the business. I claim many other things besides. Neither you nor anyone else really knows this to be true or not, and yet I hope my words and opinions themselves have earned me a measure of trust in this respect that a resume or a photograph would not add to. Perhaps I am naïve, but I believe that, given enough time, trust can be built upon words alone. My entire career testifies to that belief.

There is much, much more on Charlie's site. Feel free to visit it and learn something. I know I did.

P.S. – Notwithstanding what I say in the interview, I am not really Joe Smith. He's just some guy who owes me money. And the picture Charlie used just doesn't do justice to me. I am nowhere near as tan as that guy.


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