BBC Radio Five Live Discussion

November 2019

I took part in a one-hour discussion on BBC Radio 5 Live with Rachel Botsman from the Said Business School at the University of Oxford on the subject of ‘trust’.

The host was Nihal Arthanayake. It was a wide-ranging discussion about trust and its critical importance for people and society, how it can be repaired (if at all) when it breaks down, what makes a good apology and the fact that if you just say ‘you’re sorry’ on its own it has minimal effect on restoring trust.

We talked about whether today there is a ‘trust crisis’, and the implications of the decline in trust in institutions, like the banks, the church, and politics and politicians, especially in the age of Trump, when inconsistency and proven lies are commonplace. Inevitably, given the timing, we talked about the Prince Andrew interview.

Critical to restoring trust is displaying empathy with the other person, and none of this was shown in this interview. Instead, we had evasive, distancing answers, and a series of attempted acts of positive social self-construction, with him as a thoroughly honourable person. Plus, of course, desperate attempts to control his body language seemingly contradicted by those behaviours over which we have least control, eye blinks as a sign of anxiety, hesitations as a sign of cognitive planning, foot movements etc.

We call it ‘nonverbal leakage’ for a reason. There was, of course, something of a national consensus on how all of this affected perception and trust in this particular case.