The Anatomy of Trust

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Spend anytime reflecting upon characteristics of healthy cultures and healthy relationships, inevitably the characteristic of “trust” comes to mind.  Most leaders understand that “trust” is absolutely critical for relationships to work.  In fact, taking it a step forward, here is a recent tweet:

“In the absence of trust there really isn’t a relationship.” @AaronBrockett @TradersPointCC #truth

With this quality in relationships being so important, I find myself spending significant time studying and reflecting upon resources related to building trust in relationships and teams.  Some time ago, I ran across Brené Brown’s The Anatomy of Trust where she provides some valuable insights “revealing the anatomy of trust and why it all starts with the small, everyday moments you might be missing”.

In her video, Brené Brown’s SuperSoul Session, Brown talks about how “trust is built in very small moments”; moments she refers to as “sliding door moments”.  Using the analogy of a marble jar, which many of us likely have heard similar in building up our “relationship bank” with someone, Brown relates small moments that either add marbles to our “trust jar” or take them away.

As I relate often in my coaching model, things like keeping agreements are critical to building trust.  A small sliding door moment such as showing up for a meeting on time versus a few minutes late builds trust in ways we don’t readily recognize.  Or, as Brown relates, something as simple as “not picking up the phone” when someone calls that you know via Caller ID can have an unintended impact on trust.  She states in these moments where we “choose not to connect” the other party is actually experiencing “betrayal” which is eroding trust in the relationship.   Again, a couple of seemingly insignificant circumstances that can build or erode trust in small increments.

What are some of those seemingly small things that add multiple marbles to the trust jar.  Brown relates, something like “people showing up at funerals” is huge when it comes to building trust.  When people show up unexpectedly in a positive manner where they wouldn’t normally be anticipated to show up, that builds trust exponentially.  Additionally, the act of “asking for help” opens the door to tremendous growth in the experience of trust in relationships.  Asking for help acknowledges to the other person that you value their input which adds multiple marbles to most people’s trust jar.

Another teaching Brown has is on “vulnerability” for which I tend to focus significantly upon in my coaching.  Vulnerability is a bit tricky with those relationships which haven’t filled your trust jar significantly, yet.  However, in relationships with people who’s jars are full, vulnerability will take the relationship to a whole new level of openness and transparency that connects in a powerful way.

Brown said Charles Feltman had the “most beautiful definition of trust,” which was “Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.”  Brown continues, “Feltman says that distrust is what I’ve shared with you that is important to me is not safe with you.”  My challenge to you is to stretch yourself as much as possible to bring vulnerability to all your relationships.
Brown shares the acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G as it relates key components of building trust.  Here’s a brief summary:
“There is not trust without boundaries.”
“I can only trust you if you do what you say you’ll do” (more than once).
“I can only trust you if when you make a mistake, you’re willing to own it, apologize for it and make amends. I can only trust you if when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, apologize and make amends.”
“What I share you will be held in confidence.  Gossip – sharing what’s not yours to share”.
“Choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy, and practicing your values not just professing your values.”
“I can fall apart, ask for help, and not be judged by you.”
“Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions and behaviors. And then check in with me.”

Wow, there are some powerful words of wisdom in this acronym B.R.A.V.I.N.G.  While all of them stand out, one that comes to mind to emphasize today is the “Vault“.  I believe “gossip” is eroding relationship significantly within our society.  One important thing to note with gossip is that when you’re sharing gossip about someone with an individual, you’re eroding trust with the individual you’re sharing.  Some people gossip thinking that by revealing privileged information with an individual, they will build trust as a result of providing “insider knowledge”.  Actually, what you’re doing is eroding trust as that person begins to ask in their mind how often you’re sharing information outside your two’s relationship.  The act of not giving up confidential information actually will build trust much faster and stronger.

The video linked above is about 20 minutes long and I encourage you to listen firsthand.  You can also find more information at Brown’s site COURAGEworks.  I would also offer my blog as another valuable resource for which the following links to multiple blogs related to “trust”.  Additionally, I always welcome opportunities to serve you and your team assessing and building this critical element for success.  Contact me to schedule a time to discuss.

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