What Does it Take to Build Trust?

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I’ve delivered many team building workshops to corporations, schools and parent groups in which I focus on the behaviors that build trust and those that don’t.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Steven Covey, Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

One behavior destructive to any team is gossip and part of my program is an invitation to enter a mind trust with one another; a one-on-one, face-to-face commitment to not gossip whether at home or at work. The mind trust goes like this: “Mary, I commit to you that I won’t say bad things about you behind your back. If I have an issue with you, I’ll come directly to you with it. And if anyone comes to me to say bad things about you, I’ll direct them back to you.” This exercise calls into awareness the level of trust or lack of trust within each person and between the members.

In about 50 percent of the groups, (even those considered mostly healthy and functional) the team comes to the conclusion they are not willing or feel able to engage in the mind trust with one another at that time. What’s required to increase this readiness? In order to answer that question, it’s helpful to understand the eight values that build trust and their associated behaviors. They are: Honesty, Straightforwardness, Receptivity, Disclosure (Vulnerability), Respect, Recognition, Seeking Excellence and Keeping Commitments.

Many people are afraid to enter a mind trust because they focus on what they think others can do to hurt them, meaning, they don’t believe in the trustworthiness of the other person. They believe that being straightforward and honest will likely put them in harm’s way and open a Pandora’s box. This fear is based on their lack of training or role modeling of healthy communications and their feelings of inadequacy.

There’s an art to being straightforward and honest. To do so requires a level of self-mastery, the capacity to be honest while being caring and the ability to be sensitive and influential to another person’s receptivity, all while holding an intention to create harmony. In other words, honesty can and must be open and vulnerable, while being respectful, considerate and purposeful, even when a message isn’t an easy one to express or hear. The capability of doing this is within everyone’s grasp.

Another impediment to trust is that so many of us have longstanding beliefs that we are less powerful in certain relationships, such as with authority figures like bosses, clergymen, physicians, IRS agents, as well as with those people who are different from us, such as members of another race, political party, religion, age or gender. On top of that, we’re conditioned that to be open is naïve, to give recognition can be too touchy feely, and that respect must be earned.

Most of all, we’re afraid there’s a cost to trusting our deepest desire; to love and be loved in a direct manner. The experience we most crave – intense positive connection – often results in people feeling deeply uncomfortable, undeserving, needy or wary just as the experience is offered. Sadly, most of us are conditioned to unconsciously feel more comfortable receiving a distorted form of love and connection that’s found, for example, in a juicy exchange of gossip where momentarily we’re emotionally and intensely connected to another.

To the surprise of many, the only requirement to build trust with others is our own choice to build trust with ourselves. As we master and live the eight values and demonstrate “response-ability” in our behavior first with ourselves and then with others, we recognize we’re in charge at all times. We decide to be honest and open. We decide to receive others and ourselves, including their thoughts and desires. We decide to disclose the truth of ‘who we are’ and to give respect and understanding. We decide to fight our own demons that have been feeding our false sense of powerlessness and inferiority.

As we resist and transform our own reactivity and self-abuse, we build trust internally, which then extends to others. They then return the favor. From our deep sense of self-trust, we willingly share appreciation, while holding the intentions of excellence and accountability, which are then reflected in our very trusting and caring, authentic relationships. To learn more about how to recognize and master the eight values and behaviors that build trust in you and with others, contact me.

As published nationally in the column Emotional Intelligence in Women’s Journals, Oct/Nov 2009

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