Sponsorship disclosure: This blog article is not sponsored by any entity.
There are many values that BIM professionals must hold to be considered as true and competent professionals. Of all the values that come to mind, there is one specific one that I find is at the epicenter of doing business. That value to me is trust.
While you may not like certain individuals or agree with BIM professionals on certain topics in the AEC field, if you do trust them, chances are that you can and would do business with them. This is especially true is that trust is founded on professionalism, competence and sound management of those professionals.
In this article, I would like to discuss this virtue (trust) from a completely unexpected angle, and that is from my own dog. Since we are part of the animal kingdom and have similar human instincts as animals, I will briefly share the 10 lessons that my dog taught me about trust.
You are welcome to read the entire article or skip to a specific section by clicking below:
Trust is an interesting concept, an indispensable ingredient for survival and an essential belief for doing business. Before we jump in the lessons I learned, let’s discuss what trust really means.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.):
(verb) To believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable.
According to Dictionary.com (Dictionary.com, n.d.):
(noun) Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
According to Lexico (by Oxford Dictionary) (Lexico Dictionaries, n.d.):
(noun) Firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.
So as can be seen, one common virtue of trust is the ability to rely on someone or something. In my opinion, it is the ability to rely on someone or something for a purpose over a period of time; for example, that may be to trust that a car is safe for driving while it is in use, or that a lawyer is representing your best interest in a court case.
Let’s meet her, shall we?
The past life
Meet Stella (previously known as Twinkle).
Stella is more or less a 5-year-old mixed dog, half Chihuahua half unknown from South Korea. Not much is known about her life, but she was definitely traumatized in her life, possibly multiple times, and most probably physically abused.
She gets very scared by having someone just stare at her in her eyes, to the point that she can defecate out of trauma and start shaking uncontrollably; this is typical of Chihuahuas as a breed when they are stressed. Stella was very scared, had trust issues and would always be defensive with anyone around her.
Stella was saved some time in 2020 or early 2021 in South Korea, and she underwent a hernia surgery and was ready to fly to Canada to find a new and loving home.
Let me tell you about my journey with my girlfriend with the rescue organization, the foster home and the forever home, which is our home.
The rescue organization
Stella was rescued in Korea by a local organization and put in contact with a Canadian rescue organization called Jack Russel Network Canada (https://www.jrnc.org/).
According to their website, their mission is (Jack Russell Network, n.d.):
Jack Russell Network Canada’s (JRNC) rescue mission is to provide temporary shelter, and veterinary care for stray, abandoned, abused, injured, neglected and surrendered Jack Russells, Jack Russell Terrier crosses, similar terriers and dogs in danger of being euthanized to find them forever homes.
JRNC flies dogs from South Korea to find them a new forever home with families in Canada, and they had flown Stella around March 2021 to Vancouver, BC. Around that period of time, my girlfriend and I were on the lookout for dogs to adopt, as we already have one cat. We kept sharing listings over a few weeks of some dogs to adopt, but none of them made a real impression on either of us.
That was until we saw Stella. I remember one specific picture that stood out in her profile because I could see the sadness in her eyes. We both loved her fur color tone, her size and her breed. She simply looked adorable…
So we contacted JRNC and we completed the application, vetting and payment process, and it all went just fine. JRNC said that Stella was being fostered until we complete the process, and now we knew that she was finally going to have a new family!
The foster home
Meet Judy and Graham.
This wonderful, retired couple from Vancouver fostered Stella through JRNC for about two weeks, from the time she came to Canada until it was time for us to adopt her. They played a key role in normalizing her behavior, showing her love and care, and taking care of her as if she was their own dog.
We met them the first time at our house for us to get to know Stella and finalize the process. She did not bark or bite, but was very weary of us and always cowered behind her mommy (Judy). They stayed for about an hour or so, and they left with her.
The forever home
Soon after, within a week or so, the process was complete and the hand over was to take place. Judy and Graham came over to hand over Stella, and this time it was over pretty fast. Judy and Graham brought all of Stella’s stuff (bed cover, food, etc.) and Judy handed me the leash and stepped out of the house fast. I could tell that it was hard on her, because although it was only about two weeks that they spent with Stella, they did get attached.
And there she was… Stella, staring at the door, all alone, thinking it might open at any time for her to jump into Judy’s arms again. But that would not happen, and she would stand there for about two hours looking at the door then looking at me, as if she were asking me to open it for her. I could feel the pain and fear in her eyes… She made very limited moves and found refuge in our living room by the window.
I will spare you the details of all the interactions I had with Stella, but throughout the next one and a half weeks, I would break the ice with her by laying down on the carpet in the living room, first ignoring her, then trying to establish contact until it worked. She would still move away when I would come close, and would still defecate as soon as we look at her. I started doing a lot of research to try to understand her queues and behaviors.
The real trust came at the dog park, and she allowed me to “pet” her in a proper sense for the first time. This was a very interesting experience, and it faded away as soon as we exited the dog park, but it was definitely a good start!
The trust lessons
Here are 10 lessons about trust that I learned from Stella.
Lesson #1 – Trust must be earned through actions
Trust must be earned through actions, not just through words. You can attempt to talk to dogs as much as you like, but they will judge the extent of their trust through your actions in time, through your tones/emotions and through your body language. Be nice, friendly and caring, and they will trust you; be rude, impatient and aggressive and they will not trust you.
Likewise, in business, trust must be earned through demonstrated actions, and not just wishful thinking or rhetoric. Trust is founded on proven track records, and most importantly, on results.
Lesson #2 – Trust must be earned through time
Trust is a function of time, and it cannot be obtained immediately. Dogs take time to really establish if they can trust you, as this is an animal instinct that is directly correlated to their survival instinct. The living creatures that they trust may be in a position one day that makes their own life depend on it.
Likewise in business, building trust takes time. It comes from being “tried and tested” through time in different contexts and scenarios, and once all or most tests are passed, trust is reinforced.
Lesson #3 – Trust is cumulative through time
Trust is cumulative with dogs, meaning that every bit obtained acts as a stepping stone for greater trust. Dogs do not start trusting you fully immediately; they start with small trust items, such as allowing you to be in their vicinity, and build on it cumulatively through time, such as allowing you to get close, then to feed them, then to get close to them, then to pet them.
Likewise in business, trust is a cumulative process. Professionals in AEC firms get promotions for this reason, so that greater responsibilities and greater trust are gradually incremented over time until a great level of trust is attained (i.e. becoming a partner or shareholder.)
Lesson #4 – Trust is constantly re-evaluated
Dogs are always validating whether they can trust you. I guess this is a built-in survival mechanism that keeps their guard up all the time, since one slip-up can mean huge consequences in the animal world, including harm or death.
Likewise in business, trust always stands the trial of time. Having any level of trust at any professional level does not mean that it is permanent or perpetual, and it can be amended or revoked under the appropriate circumstances. Therefore, do not lose this trust because it is the fruit of a long process.
Lesson #5 – Trust is concurrent with self-reliance
Dogs never assume that they can trust you fully. I definitely see this in Stella where she is always self-reliant and aware of her own security, even when I am present. She does not assume that I will intervene in the presence of other dogs in case there is tension, but seeks her security and safety first on her own, then looks for my support.
Likewise in business, always trust yourself first and be self-reliant. You can trust other professionals around you, but ensure that you don’t depend on anyone so heavily that you cannot provide for whatever you are seeking on your own or you don’t double check for yourself. As the saying goes, “trust but verify”.
Lesson #6 – Trust is a necessity for survival
This is especially true for animals, where similar animals or those of the same breed need to trust each other to survive, by finding food together and by defending each other. Survival in this context refers to actual life and death. Stella has no choice but to trust that I will provide her with food to stay alive, and that the food is actually fine for her. Although this is taken for granted with all pet owners, it is a form of trust that exists between the owner and the pet.
Likewise in business, trust is a necessity for survival. Survival in the context of BIM in the AEC world refers to employment tenure as an employee or shareholder, while in some other contexts, it can refer to actual life and death (i.e. pilots, military, security personnel, etc.)
Lesson #7 – Trust is vital when with outsiders
Dogs need your trust when outside creatures are around, be they humans or animals. Stella trusts me and looks for my help in protecting her especially when we are at the dog park, when faced with other owners or other dogs. As mentioned before, she relies on herself first, but she does need my help in some cases.
Likewise in business, trust is extremely important when dealing with “outsiders”. Outsiders refers to members outside the organization, including clients, partners, consultants and any third-parties. When dealing with outsiders, the trust between colleagues and partners should be the top priority to ensure that your common interest is met.
As Michael Corleone said in the Godfather (MagicalQuote, 2018):
Lesson #8 – Trust is individual
Dogs definitely feed of each others’ behaviors and characters. However, the trust aspect is an individual relationship between the dog and the recipient. I know this because we ended up getting a second dog, and I definitely notice a different level and type of trust between the two dogs.
Likewise in business, trust is based on individuals at the most basic level. Indeed, organizations can have a working and ongoing “relationship” between each other or individual contracts, but that trust at the organization level is the summation of individual trust relationships that exist between individuals. The promise that professionals can trust an organization translates into their trust of the individuals running the organization.
Lesson #9 – Trust is brittle
Dogs, like many other animals and most humans, take very much to establish trust, and very little to lose it. And once it is broken, much like a vase, trust cannot be restored to what it was. I had an experience a few months ago with Stella where we went out for a walk, and she ran off a few blocks after the leash slipped out of my hand because she was scared. That one incident set me back a good month in terms of trust, and she would slowly but surely allow me to regain her trust. Although not a life-changing event, I’m sure that if the trauma had been more significant, she would keep this lack of trust for me forever.
Likewise in business, trust can be brittle, meaning that it can be broken indefinitely. Once an act or an event breaks trust in a major way professionally, it can never be restored to what it was prior to the violation. Smaller instances can be foregone and forgiven, but larger ones cannot.
Lesson #10 – Trust is amazing
Well, it goes without saying that when there is trust, great things happen! Stella trusts us and we trust her, and we all live happily together. Since we earned her trust and it is well founded on both sides, we are both having a great time and enjoying each other’s company.
Likewise in business, trust can accomplish incredible things. This is especially true for decision makers that trust others around then, by empowering them, supporting them, and allowing them to thrive and flourish and shine. When trust is well founded, it is a rock solid foundation that can hold the weight of many future accomplishments.
Let me say that again.
And there you have it! The 10 lessons that I learned from none other than my beautiful doggy Stella about trust.
The new life
Stella has changed so much since we got her back in March 2021. She technically counts as a pandemic dog, but we didn’t get her for that reason really. We wanted a dog, and the fact that my girlfriend and I work from home definitely helps.
We ended up getting another dog a few months later, Gina, who is about the same size and age. They are amazing sisters now and sometimes they do play together!
So now Stella has a dog sister, Gina, and a cat brother, Juju, that are all part of a loving family!
I am so glad that Stella now lives very comfortably in a house that provides warmth, safety, freedom, food, water, entertainment, companionship, love and plenty of beds for her to lounge in.
This is a far fetch from the metal cages that she lived in for some time with swollen paws, and the unknown past conditions probably with basic food and water, bad hygiene, cold temperatures, confinement, torture and trauma.
It’s amazing what we can learn from others, especially our furry family members. Stella definitely taught me many lessons about trust in her own way, as it was a challenge and an opportunity to learn what to communicate and how to communicate it. Since she can’t express herself with words, I had to do research, understand her language and pick up her queues on what she means and what she thinks I mean with my behaviors.
All in all, it was an amazing experience and I’m so happy that my girlfriend and I rescued Stella to give her a new chance at life; her first 5 years were terrible, and I want to make sure that she has an amazing rest of her life with us. Earning her trust was a very long and slow process, but we managed to do so after months of living with her.
I look forward to applying these trust lessons in my life, and I would like to thank you, Stella, my little doggy, for your trust. Mommy and daddy will always be there for you!
I love you and I will always keep you tucked inside my heart, Stella. ❤
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog article and I’ll see you again soon.
Tarek Ghazzaoui, Eng.
Special thanks to the following individuals and entities for their contribution to this article:
|Juju (my cat)||Late night check-ins and cuddles|
|Stella (my dog)||Evening check-ins and cuddles|
“Trust.” Cambridge Dictionary, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/trust.
“Trust Definition & Meaning.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/trust.
“Trust: Meaning & Definition for UK English.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries, https://www.lexico.com/definition/trust.
“Jack Russell Network Canada.” Jack Russell Network, https://www.jrnc.org/.
“Fredo, You’re My Older Brother, and I Love You. but Don’t Ever Take Sides with Anyone against the Family Again. Ever.” MagicalQuote, 24 Jan. 2018, https://www.magicalquote.com/moviequotes/fredo-youre-my-older-brother/.
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