Can you be trusted to do what you said you'd do?

A quick reminder that trust is built on small actions

It's 6 in the morning. My alarm rings and I get out of bed. I grab my laptop from my bedside shelf and bring it with me to the living room.

My mother-in-law is in town. Our apartment has only two bedrooms. One's taken by my wife and I, and the other's taken by our daughter. Luckily, this apartment has a big living room.

That's where I find my mother-in-law, sitting awake on her sofa bed.

I sit down on another sofa that's diagonally opposite her sofa bed and flip open my laptop. I'm ready to start my 1 hour of alone time. This is typically the only time in a day that I get to myself as someone who has a child and a wife. I treasure it a lot.

But my mother-in-law starts talking to me.

Her: Can you teach me how to use your pressure cooker? I want to cook these yams, so Charlotte can have some before going to school.

I wanted to pretend that she wasn't talking and just sit alone. I pause for a few seconds before responding, but when I see that it's not working – she's still standing there looking at me – I bend down to open the dishwasher.

Our apartment may have a big living room, but it's directly adjoining Charlotte's bedroom, so we have to be quiet or risk awakening her prematurely. I brace myself for this possibility as I fish the pressure cooker out of the dishwasher, trying to the best of my ability to avoid the clanging of metal against ceramic.

I manage to take the pressure cooker out quietly and set it on the stove. She puts the yams in and pours in water. I cover the lid and power the stove to 9.

Finally, I point to the little blue knob on the lid and explain to her, "When this rises and you see the white side revealing itself, turn the heat down to 4. It means it's at the right pressure and don't need much more heat input."

She nods to me and confirms she understood this. "Zhi dao le," is what she says. The way a Chinese grandmother would say it when they know about something by experience.

And so I leave her to handle the pressure cooker. I notice she leaves the stove to sit on her sofa bed again, which is just a couple of steps away.

As for me, I walk to the couch diagonally opposite her sofa bed again and sit down. Finally, alone time. I open my laptop to write. For good measure, to signal that I don't want to be bothered in My Alone Time, I plug in my AirPods.

Three minutes or so passes.

Despite my award-winning noise-cancelling headphones plugging my ear holes, I hear the quintessential loud hissing that comes from a pressure cooker that is fully pressurised.

I look up, and my mother-in-law is still sitting on her sofa bed.

Because I don't want the hissing to wake Charlotte, and because I don't want there to be an explosion (unlikely but who knows), I run to the stove and move the cooker off the heat.

By now I'm pissed. She should have kept an eye on the cooker as she said she would.

I was interrupted in the morning by her request to cook yams, and now I'm interrupted again by having to do what she was supposed to do.

And to tell the truth, I suspected this would happen, that's why I didn't play any music in my AirPods. I just turned on noise-cancelling mode. I wanted to make sure I could react in time. In other words, I wasn't really writing at all. Multi-tasking is a myth.

Trust is built on small actions. Can you be trusted to do the thing you say you'd do?

If you can't be trusted, it is very possible that your presence becomes a burden, rather than a help. Who wants that in a colleague or a friend?

Subscribe to Nick's Notes

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.