[Note: Yet another old draft]
"Can you be trusted?"
It's a question we ask people all the time -- not necessarily out loud, but we do so nonetheless. We ask it by evaluating their actions, and their words. We look, rather than listen for the answer. More than their personalities, more than their motives, we look at their results.
This entry was drafted not long after I found myself wanting to literally ask someone this, but didn't. I reflected afterward: "Why not?" Why, almost as soon as the notion formed, was my inclination to reject the idea? It would be rude for one -- even politically inexpedient as I was a consultant and that person a client manager. It seemed pretty illogical for another -- seeming about as fruitful as asking someone if they are a liar.
Yet the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I figured the rude part could be mitigated by careful phrasing, but that left the logical futility. Since the answer is going to be some form of, "Yes, I am trustworthy" why bother?
My conclusion was that the value (if any) would come, not from what the person answers, but how -- and what they did afterward. If his actions had shown the question had rattled him, or led to a change in behavior (I am assuming that it was prior behavior that led to my desire to ask in the first place), it could be a sign that the person is manipulating how they are viewed by others.
In short, I concluded that usually asking the question would be useless, but the surprise factor of throwing it right out there, might just rattle someone's cage enough for you to get an accurate glimpse inside.
I kinda wish now, I had asked. Maybe someday, I will.