So, I can’t get Trust out of my mind. In part, because I’ve been thinking I left something out of my last post – On the Matter of Trust. And here’s what I want to add…
I described how I had awareness over the weekend that I was quick to distrust – wrongly so, I might add – my new plumber/heating engineer. This was the case even though he came recommended by a friend (well, a friend’s neighbours) and to date has given me no real reason not to trust him. As said, the quickness to distrust stemmed from previous experience – a plumber/heating engineer who was a shyster.
What I’m mulling over – why I’m coming back to this – are those moments when we are inclined to distrust/be very wary, even though we have little reason on the face of it. Sure, we’ve got past experience – but then the question arises, what does it take to let go of that experience and judge a situation on its own merit? I suspect there is something here about finding balance – about being rightly cautious and aware, while also being open – being open to trusting others. Or, as Liam said in his comment, being open to ‘conscious vulnerability.’
Let’s step out of the client/service provider relationship (though it is an important space, particularly in areas such as healthcare). In creating and collaborating with others, upon what evidence do we base our Trust? How much of Trust is about instinct/gut? How do power dynamics intersect with Trust? Actually, in situations involving healthcare and plumbing alike we are all put in very vulnerable positions – having to defer to the expertise of someone else and sometimes, e.g. in emergency situations, left with little or no option to seek second opinions, gather our own information, empower ourselves to ask the right questions – a topic for another post, perhaps.
Going back to topic, from a different angle – how can you tell when someone is distrustful of you? How do you manage that? How do you gain their Trust? In the New Year, I’ll be organizing community conversations on estates that have a long history of violence between them. This process will have Trust at its core – I mean, why should residents trust us – representatives of the organisation I’ll be doing the work for? How can we gain their Trust?
Each resident will have their own set of stories which will determine how trusting and open they are or are not. Each resident will have their own unique door – entryway – into Trust. Building trust is in part about identifying that entryway. It will invariably connect up with an individual or group’s past experiences – both specific to the incidents we are wanting to discuss and also outside that realm.
I wasn’t thinking about this work when I started writing this post. But I’m glad for the unexpected detour – as it a good reminder to me as I embark on the project. I was, in fact, thinking about social justice and the many activists I’ve known over the years who have been consistently distrustful. I’ve watched people (and no doubt have been one myself!) enter meetings on the defensive, aggressive, and ready for a fight.
Yet, top of head, I cannot remember (though that doesn’t mean it never happened) anyone going into a meeting and simply saying straight off: I’m here, but the truth is, I don’t trust you. Do people do that? I’ve heard people whisper it on the sidelines, in the backroom to each other about someone else – but I don’t recall anyone saying it straight out.
Have you done that? Has anyone done that to you? And how often does someone say ‘Look, I know this might seem unfair, after all you seem like you’ve been quite straight up with me, but I’m just having trouble trusting you.’ Can you say that out loud without destroying the relationship?
Perhaps if you say such a thing you need to come to the table with a concrete request – a specific ‘ask’ as to what it would take for that person/group to earn your trust.
What are different approaches can we take to situations where we are entering them with a lack of Trust? I ask that because – and I’m repeating myself here – we know that a meeting and/or an on-going relationship of whatever kind is unlikely to be highly creative, constructive and collaborative if we lack Trust in the others involved.
How often do you check in with your self to see if you are going into a situation with your guard up, with the walls high and trust low? And if you are, do you assess whether that positioning is justified? Or ask yourself where its coming from, what is driving it?
What do you do in such circumstances – times when you are distrustful and are entering a meeting or a collaborative relationship?
Still thinking about the matter of Trust because Trust matters.