By Holly Doering

Ever think about why you trust some folks and not others? Author and psychologist Michael Lovas once conducted an experiment using body language. He stood at one end of the airport and walked toward someone at the other end, copying their gait, head position, and hand gestures. Almost always, the other person nodded, smiled, or otherwise acknowledged — even kids who looked like gangbangers.

I can remember a customer review on that mentioned the author was initially inclined to trust a certain business because of the store cat, a well-fed, rescued animal. But the customer ended up unhappy. I don’t know who is wrong, right or misunderstood in that situation, but I do know this: If you want to “start with trust” when you research a company, it’s great if they’re kind to animals, a family-owned, multigenerational minority business, donate to charity, or in some other way seem similar to you. But!

The real substance is their track record. When you check out a company at, you’re starting to build a picture of its past actions in the marketplace. Are they properly licensed? Do they generate a pattern or volume of complaints? How do they handle complaints? Remember that scam artists love to prey on your sympathies by telling you they, too, are Christian, policemen, disabled, teachers or something else that seems trustworthy.

A recent study at the Kellogg School of Management found that using subliminal clues, like the name of a good friend, could stimulate feelings of trust for a stranger without people realizing it. Con men, the professor says, commonly drop names to stimulate trust. So investigate before you invest: A gut feeling is fine, but trust ideally is earned.

Previously published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

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