Earning someone’s trust is one of the most incredible gifts of human connection. It is not to be taken lightly because trust is the foundation of thriving, meaningful relationships. Long before we are old enough to understand the definition of trust, we instinctively know how it feels.
Recently I was inspired to listen once again to a Brene Brown SuperSoul presentation about the anatomy of trust.
At the onset, Brene offered this powerful definition of trust from Charles Feltman:
If you just let that definition sink in, you not only begin to understand just how much is at stake when we need to trust another, you can feel it. Complete trust feels safe and secure no matter the circumstances.
Brene then provided Charles Feltman’s definition of distrust:
“What I have shared with you that is important to me — is not safe with you.”
It’s unfortunate that often when others need our trust the most, we fail to see how much they’ve exposed their vulnerability. Vulnerability is when we pull back the veil and honestly express what we are feeling. It feels risky and scary. It takes tremendous courage to open up about mistakes, weaknesses, fears or needs.
It is at that precise moment that we can begin to build trust — a safe harbor free from judgment, the comfort of a warm hug, a willingness to simply listen without interrupting and the promise of complete confidentiality. Choosing words and actions that genuinely convey ” “you and your feelings are safe with me.”
While it is fairly easy to look back on our own life experiences and see the times when others have failed to come through in a trustworthy way for us, can we also take stock of the times when we have not truly understood how our own actions impacted something sacred to others?
Brene Brown says that when we trust, we are braving connection with someone. She developed the acronym ‘BRAVING” to help us remember the elements that are the anatomy of trust: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-Judgment and Generosity.
Brene expounds on what each of these components really mean:
These straight forward definitions make it easier to articulate what we need in order to feel trust in a relationship.
Just as compelling is that these definitions provide us with a valuable way to check in with ourselves to ensure we are being trustworthy for another.
A few things I have learned about trust over these past few years have provided helpful insight. One is that I now recognize that it may take a very long time for me to “earn”” someone’s trust. And it may have little to do with me, but a lot to do with the lack of trust they have experienced in their lives. This reminds me to be patient in the process and to be consistent in my reliability, integrity, non-judgment, etc.
Another is that I only need a few truly “trustworthy” friends to be my buoys when the seas of my life get choppy. It is incredibly comforting to be able to call one of my “trust buddies” when I am struggling with something in my life that is breaking my heart and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am 100% safe with them.
What happens when trust is broken especially in times of big struggle when vulnerability is at its height? It adds another dimension of hurt and insecurity to someone who has little resilience and makes their difficulties more complex. As I studied Brene’s anatomy of trust, I became aware that a sincere apology along with making genuine amends would go a long way to bridge trust in these situations. At the very least, we should avoid judging others who are in struggle and definitely not share their personal stories.
As I was reflecting and researching about this matter of trust, I began to notice how often trust is referenced in our day to day world. Simon Sinek (author and organizational consultant) often talks about importance of trust in his motivational talks on leadership in the workplace. As I watched a recent NFL game, the announcers talked about how a distinguished player had lost trust in his organization over his health issues. Oprah’s guests on last Sunday’s Supersoul series, Dr. Dean and Anne Ornish (practitioners and authors of Lifestyle Medicine) talked about the importance of trust for intimacy and deeper connection in long term relationships. And of course, there is that blind trust that only a small child can exemplify as he leaps from the top of the playground set into his father’s strong arms.
One of the noteworthy remarks from Simon Sinek really resonated with me — he said that there are a lot of resources available to us for “self help” but that we should also be focused on helping others. The gift of trust would be a profound way to help others.