Trust – how do I build it?

Trust – how do I build it?

In times like these trust is one of the staples of our wellbeing. Being able to trust the people we surround ourselves with means we can weather most storms. It gives us hope, strength, motivation, results and energy.

Trust is something that is not automatically there. Neither is it something that stays once we have it – rather the opposite: Trust is constantly challenged. It is created, reinforced or destroyed on a daily basis depending on how we act and think. Sincere trust has a very charismatic energy.  So much so, that we sometimes can’t really articulate why we trust a person, we just know we can. We also know, if someone asks us to trust them, but somehow we are not able to do so. Have you ever wondered why this might be?

Let’s take a few moments and stand back to reflect on what happens….

What happens? 

Many times I have witnessed what damage a loss of trust can do for a relationship. This applies to personal life as well as our professional relationships. 

If I asked you to think of a situation from your life where you have lost trust in someone.  

What comes up in your  mind...

.... and what then happened as a result of that lost trust? 

I can think of some examples where trust was lost. Here is one that seems to repeat itself over and over again in the world of work: Regularly in coaching sessions I hear how people feel betrayed by their favourite work colleagues. They work together for many years, even become friends and ever so often meet for a drink or share a meal with their families. Then it turns out that over time a bunch of niggly little things have accumulated. None of the two parties seems to think it is necessary to address these niggles. They are just little things in the end of the day and are not worth to rock the boat.  

Then something happens, for example: all of a sudden a favourite colleague keeps stepping on the other’s toes by getting involved in things that are really not within their responsibilities. In other words penetrating the other’s client area. Maybe even leaves a not so helpful impression behind at the client. 

What happens as a result is through the eyes of the one person it looks and feels like an undermining of their competency.  When in fact their favourite colleague merely intended to support the client. Under normal circumstances such a situation would not be an issue. They’d simply keep each other informed about what the situation required them to do to keep the business and client happy. At that time they would both perceive this as helpful and would be happy about it – simply teamwork at its best. 

This time it is different. The client complaint about the situation and how it was handled. The complaint landed totally unexpected – a lightning bolt! All of a sudden this topic appears out of nowhere, as no one knew that it existed just because they didn’t inform each other. 

It simply was the tip of the iceberg that triggered questions about integrity and respect in my client’s mind. While this was going on, another situation occurred internally, which then intensified this feeling of being played and hey presto: ready is the mind carousel,  whereby this sense of undermining or betrayal is intensified. Very quickly all the trust that had been built up over so many years seems to have gone completely.  

How on earth did this happen? The colleague was stunned when s/he finally found out! From their perspective there were a few niggles, but not to the extent that s/he felt it was threatening their relationship to become so fragile.

The result of this breakdown of trust in this situation was that a customer was directly affected, which in turn could potentially have an impact on the business result. In addition it also brought up a lot of questions around the notion of respect, integrity and similar value terms. It seemed like there was a lack of clarifity and alignment about boundaries and values.

A further example on a personal level would be the break down of trust in a romantic relationship or marriage following a betrayal – either by meeting another person, behaving in an unexpected way, doing something that the other was not aware of or expected, or by breaking an agreement.  The consequence there is often divorce or a painful break up.

So without trust there is no successful team, project, friend or partnership. In fact there is no society without trust. 

Risks of trusting

As a human race we seek safety and want to be liked, wanted and trusted. Our intention in general is to give the best we can and treat others how we want to be treated. Yet, we often don’t trust people, their abilities or even situations. 

Why would that be? Some of the reason I often hear are: 

Does anything here sound familiar to you? So there are absolute risks associated with trusting other people, situations or processes. To be precise the majority of them might be hidden insecurities and fears. 

Trusting in something or someone makes us vulnerable. As a human race we generally don’t feel very comfortable with making ourselves vulnerable. Our dinosaur brain (amygdala) protects us from intruders that might threaten our safety. Fear is the emotion that initiates the dinosaur brain to behave in ways that it knows and has kept us safe over the years to this day. So we keep doing this because we know it works.

Our prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that learns new behaviours and allows tolerance and courage to apply something we haven’t done before. But because it is new we have to keep practising it over and over again, until the dinosaur trusts the pre frontal cortex (from research up to 3 months if we practice a few times daily). That’s why trust need constant attention to stay and keep flourishing.

Easier said than done – yes, I agree, it is not a quick win but it is soooo worth the effort. 

How do we do it? 

The elements that make up trust are as mentioned in the introduction:

1.Clarity & transparency

People that we trust are very open in their communication. They don’t hold any information or thoughts back and are transparent about their feelings. Meaning they also say if they are feeling uncomfortable with or about a situation. They have the skills to communicate succinctly and to the point without aggression. They show courage and address if they are unclear or unsure about anything and happily hold their hand up and say “I don’t know but I will find out”.

2. Empathy

Understanding how someone else is feeling and appreciating their circumstances. Their behaviour is unbiased, non-judgemental and emotionally intelligent. They are able to see the situation through the eyes of the other person, thereby keeping their own assumptions and filters out. Practising compassion on others and self.

3. Mindset of generosity

This means being able to have the mind flexibility to accept another’s point of view no matter how odd, different or unusual it is. Accepting here means taking it into consideration and learning to understand the intention and background behind this thought/ idea or behaviour. Showing a genuine interest in the person. It also means forgiving if things don’t happen straight away or for the first time.

4. Paying it forward

Means here: allowing the benefit of the doubt and hearing the other person out without judgment and giving trust while you are verifying and checking in. Doing a favour before the other has given you a favour. Doing something without expecting anything back. 

5. WoMan of my word (handshake quality)

Doing what we say we are going to do at the time that we said we would do it by.  At the same token letting the other know, if we cannot deliver what we promised and communicating what we are able to do instead. Not asking others to do something I myself am not practising. 

6. Mindset of Generosity

Having the flexility of mind to accept other perspectives and other people's views of the world as well as their perhaps different interpretations of terms.

Each of these elements is a skill in itself, that can mean many things to many people.  They require an agreement for mutual understanding. Enjoy experimenting and let me know what happens.  

So for now, I have briefly elaborated on each of the points with further detail available in other newsletters as a topic in its own right. Please do let me know if there is a particular one that you are interested in.