From 1981 to 1989, Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Most of us remember him as being a great president. He restored national pride in America. We had developed a very poor self-image as a nation during the 1970’s. The war in Viet Nam had ended, gas prices were soaring, inflation and interest rates were out of control when he became president. It is hard to believe, but I can remember when interest rates were over 20%. I never thought I would live to see single digit interest rates again!
Reagan was a strong defender of freedom. He was bold enough to face the former Soviet Union and challenge Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” in Germany that separated the East from the West. We have indeed lived to see the fall of communism and the rise of more freedom in the world than many people had previously experienced.
President Reagan had another saying that he would often use when he dealt with other nations, “trust – but verify.” In other words, “We trust you to do what you say, but, we also will verify that the agreed upon decision is carried through.”
I really like that. In my life it expresses the attitude that I trust you to do what you say you are going to do; that I believe you are a person of honor with character and integrity and that you will follow through on your words and commitments. On the other hand, I realize we live in a world where people sometimes make mistakes, including me, so we need to able to verify and follow up on what has been agreed upon.
Remember, it works both ways. It is good that I can check on you, but it is also good that you can check on me. It gives both of us confidence and helps reduce the odds of misinterpretation or error. How foolish it is to be blind and naïve enough to think that people will automatically do everything that they say they will. People are human beings. They sometimes forget what they said they would do, or get sidetracked from what they originally had planned to do. It has not been my experience that most people are deliberate deceivers and liars, although some are. I think that people are generally good and will do whatever they say they will. It is just important that we be in a position to check and double-check one another.
Based on our history together, if I tell you that I am going to do something, you should expect me to be a person of my word who will do what I say. But, it only makes good sense for you to follow through to see that things were done as you expected. And, of course, the reverse is true as well. If you tell me you are going to do something, I assure you that I will believe what you say. But, I also want to be in a position to check in order to know that things were done as we had previously agreed.
This does not create an atmosphere of distrust. On the contrary, it creates an attitude of goodwill and accountability. It puts both of us in the posture of being responsible to one another. It creates a “win-win” situation.
The next time you are in a situation where you feel a little uncomfortable or where you are not sure exactly what should happen next, why not look at the other person and say, “Can we handle this the same way President Reagan handled his business dealings? Can we trust but verify? Let’s both do everything we can in our power to follow through on what we have agreed upon, but, let’s also double-check each other to see that things are handled according to our mutual understanding.”
I have found this to work in business relationships and in my personal relationships as well. It is not only a healthy way to run a country, it is a healthy way to do business and build relationships with family and friends. It minimizes surprises, misunderstandings and hurt feelings and creates good results for everyone concerned.
Tip: Trust with verification.
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm