7 Ways To Develop Trust With Others

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

It’s a universal experience

I think it’s safe to say that we have all experienced a trust breakdown at some point in our lives. Some years ago I gave a talk on building trust and when I asked how many people in the room had ever ended a relationship because of a rupture in trust, the entire room raised their hands. This was true when I asked about work relationships and when I asked about personal relationships.

Such experiences of “betrayal” can rattle a person’s trust in themselves, as well as others. A common concern that I hear from individuals who have recently ended a relationship or a marriage is: “Given what happened in this relationship, how can I trust myself to make a good choice the next time around?” A break in their trust with another often results in a crisis of self-trust. They no longer trust their own judgment.

More and more these days, books about business are acknowledging what books about love have been saying all along: That trust is the critical ingredient — for a healthy and innovative work culture or a healthy and functional relationship. So I’m delighted to share some very thoughtful and thought-provoking research by Dr. Brene Brown on the topic of trust and what characterizes those relationships in which trust is high.

What does trust mean to you?

Just like love, everyone has their own definition of what it means to them to trust someone. When I work with single clients to define their “deal-breakers” for a relationship, trust is often identified as an essential requirement. However when I ask what trust means to them, I get many different answers:

“Trust means that she will always tell me the truth.” or
“Trust means that I can share my feelings with him.” or
“Trust means that she/he is responsible with money” and so on.

It’s not surprising that we experience breakdowns of trust with others, because so often when we talk about trust we are meaning something completely different.

A valuable discovery

In my own quest to understand trust, I was delighted to come upon a video called The Anatomy of Trust — featuring researcher Dr. Brene Brown. Brown outlines seven key aspects of trust, distilled from her own research and the writings of others. Her research is based on analyzing interviews with many different individuals and looking for the common themes.

This is one of the most comprehensive definitions of trust I’ve encountered and I think it offers a template for pinpointing “what happened?” when we experience a trust breakdown with someone important in our lives.

The BRAVING model

Brown organizes her definition using the acronym BRAVING to describe the seven key areas of behavior that affect our willingness to trust another. Here’s what BRAVING stands for:

Boundaries: We trust someone when they are clear about their boundaries and hold to them – and when they respect our boundaries and the boundaries of others.

Reliability: We trust someone who does what they say they will – consistently and over time. In other words, they keep their word.

Accountability: We trust someone who owns their behavior and is able to apologize and make amends. They take responsibility for their actions.

Vault (or confidentiality): We trust someone who keeps what we share with them in confidence. They don’t blab to others!

Integrity: We trust someone who acts with integrity and encourages us to do the same. According to Brown, integrity means 1) choosing courage over comfort 2) choosing right over what’s fast or easy and 3) practicing our values, not just professing our values.

Non-judgment: When we are struggling, have fallen apart or need help, we trust someone who doesn’t judge us.

Generosity: When we screw up, forget, etc. we trust someone who treats us with generosity, who assumes the best (not the worst) about our intentions and behaviors — and checks it out with us.

Put this definition to use

When we feel upset or betrayed in some way by another, it can be difficult to identify exactly why we are upset. So as you review this list, I invite you to bring to mind someone with whom you have a trust issue. Notice if any of these characteristics articulates or names why you feel distrustful. This may provide you with the vocabulary to express your disappointment to your friend or partner – and discover if they are committed to re-earning your trust.

How trustworthy are you?

Trust cuts both ways in a relationship and so does this list of characteristics. If we want to walk our talk, then we need to apply the same trust standards to ourselves, as we expect of others. So I also invite you to take note of how you’re doing in living these characteristics, with your friends or partner. None of us are perfect, however this list can give us something to aim for in becoming trustworthier ourselves. We can’t expect from others what we’re not prepared to give.

The building blocks

So if we want to strengthen the “glue” of trust in our relationships, we can strive to keep and honor boundaries, be reliable over time, be accountable for our actions, keep the confidentiality of others, act with integrity and extend non-judgment and generosity when those we care about need it most. If we do so, then we can confidently ask for the same in return — and the trust in our relationships will grow accordingly.

Invitation to action:

Try the recommendations I’ve suggested and listen to The Anatomy of Trust talk, if you haven’t already. You can find more wonderful courses by Dr. Brene Brown at www.courageworks.com. I am slowly working my way through her Living Brave course and it is very high quality, containing both videos of Brown and online exercises. Most of her courses are very user-friendly and can be completed on your own time-line from your home computer or tablet.

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