When navigating a season or environment of change, we need things we can trust.
But what does it mean to trust someone or something? Where does it come from?
The word derives from the root “Deru” (firm, solid, steadfast), the same etymological foundation as the word tree. It brings an image of strength through flexibility, adaptability, and dependability to meet the moment’s needs.
A tree is anchored in place by its roots. It starts growing beneath the ground.
Charlie Jones joined us in our September Courtyard Conversation to discuss dealing with unpredictable change. We explored the meaning of truth during uncertain times and how it relates to the growth and erosion of trust in the people and places around us.
Maybe you can think of someone or something you have lost confidence in. What is it that means they can’t be trusted? Words that come to mind are shape-shifting, slippery, and a drive to wiggle their way out of things to protect themselves. Someone who will do anything to avoid accountability and responsibility for their words and actions.
When we lose trust in one person, it can impact the story we tell about everyone. This is why it’s in the interests of a healthy culture to grow and nurture a shared understanding of and commitment to truth. It starts where we are.
How is Trust Grown?
What tells us it is safe to put our confidence in another person? These are some of the responses that came through the Courtyard conversation when we explored the characteristics of trust.
This is not a prescriptive list of things to do but reflections on some of those signs and signals that indicate the presence of truth, as we defined earlier. As the steadfastness that runs through from our roots to the tips of our leaves.
Integrity (practising what you preach)
We scan for signs that we can or cannot trust someone based on whether their actions reflect their words.
Respect (to look again)
Trust grows when we look beneath someone’s role/position/performance and meet them at the level of being. This is an ongoing practice, not a one-time event.
Patience (slowing down)
Trust grows when someone cares enough to slow down and address things properly and effectively. If they appear in a rush to sugarcoat, appease, or force quick change, we might wonder what they are afraid of.
Trust grows when we have mechanisms to hold ourselves and one another to a shared vision and foundational values. Something against which to “balance the books”. It erodes if we hold people accountable for things around which we have not reached a shared consensus.
Listening (holding space)
Listening is a buzzword in many situations and environments where change occurs. But hope and trust are quickly eroded if you’re told you’re being listened to, but evidence says you’re being ignored. Charlie co-founded Spaces For Listening with Brigid Russell, so we had a good chat about the characteristics of genuine listening.
Encouragement (unconditional acceptance)
Praise can feel manipulative because it is linked to doing things in the correct/acceptable way. Even if it feels good to hear (when it aligns with our feelings about something), it doesn’t help trust grow as we think they are trying to get something from us. On the other hand, encouragement is about unconditional acceptance at the level of being. Seeing who we are BENEATH what we do creates conditions for that to flourish in its own way.
Bravery (going against the grain)
Trust grows when we witness someone act from a place of truth. A willingness to make life more difficult for themselves because there is something more important to them. Maybe they are willing to have a difficult conversation, admit they were wrong about something, or stand up to authority. When someone sacrifices their comfort or pleasure for the sake of something or someone else, it can grow a sense of trustworthiness.
Trusting The Void
Giselle wrote to me with the story of Leap into the Void by Yves Klein. It’s a photo of a man (Klein) diving from a high wall onto the city street below. An explanation for how it was done was kept secret for many years – it was a composite of two photographs.
The image makes an impression because it confronts the viewer with a contradiction. How can this possibly be? It defies logic. But this impossibility tells us of the necessity of collaboration. It is startling because it is missing the essence of what makes it possible…other people. Those trusted to hold the tarpaulin and keep the secret.
This mystery we enjoy in creativity and art isn’t a lie. The most powerful experiences of art encourage us to feel the mystery of truth and the truth of mystery within us.
Do we trust that void? Are we able to confront it in ourselves? The space of unknowing and uncertainty (aka life).
Trust is often found in those who can move through life without immediately controlling, defining, and labelling. Holding gently and letting go of the need to turn their fear of uncertainty into conspiracy or cynicism.
There is a time for understanding, categorising, and discovering. But not at the expense of, or to avoid confrontation with, emotion, creativity, and uncertainty. It’s hard to trust a person who cannot allow themselves to be moved by something that resonates with their depths.
Trust grows when we sense and connect with humanness. It is eroded when we all experience mechanised, cold, calculating rationality. Anything can be justified when we lose sight of our human truth beneath the surface.