What happens when you trust someone? Maybe take 30 seconds and actually consider the deeper answers, not just the ones that come to mind immediately.
Trust allows a first time mom to ask her kid’s pediatrician earnestly about vaccine risks, and whether they cause autism (they don’t). Mom trusts that Doctor will not judge her for asking, and thus she listens to Doctor’s answer openly, knowing Baby’s health is Doc’s first priority. Trust allows Mom to respectfully request a delayed vaccination schedule, just in case, and because she will feel more comfortable with it all. Doctor agrees to said arrangement, because she trusts that Mom is not a flight risk, and they have the kind of relationship wherein it’s safe to query, challenge, discuss, and negotiate.
Vaccines. Masks. Election results. Who can change our minds when we have a set opinion about these and other things? Only people whom we trust. The more committed I am to my perspective, the more I must trust you to even hear your opposing point of view, much less let it (you) affect or change mine. Even then, it most likely requires multiple encounters or conversations. You must be patient.
Patient for what? For relationship building. Trusting relationships require time and energy to cultivate; there is simply no substitute for these interpersonal investments. We may not notice the small tests along the way, the ones we pass easily when committed to relationship building, and fail just as easily when not. Brené Brown lists seven key elements of trust, arranged in the convenient acronym BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault (confidentiality), Integrity, Non-judgment, and Generosity. Who in your life practices all seven with you? With whom do you? Is it mutual, like Mom and Doc above? The most resilient relationships stand on the strongest foundations of trust, such that challenges and dissent not only fail to threaten bonds, but tighten them through honesty, vulnerability, and thus connection.
Whom can you not trust? Someone who ridicules your opinion? Who dismisses, shames, or belittles you? Maybe. Then again, when you know someone does this on the regular, can’t you trust them to continue doing it? Can a relationship be trusting, even if it’s not positive? We can trust our enemies to remain our enemies, right? Maybe. I think enemies may be converted (transformed) with the same habits as those practiced between trusting friends. It just takes more time and energy.
I cannot, however, trust he who treats me with indifferent ambivalence. When in one private moment he holds me up, then in another cuts me down in front of others. When she expresses agreement in today’s meeting, then next week flippantly denies this agreement and equivocates. This consistent, repetitive, and yet unpredictably timed alignment whiplash—the erratic alternation between attunement and rejection—kills trust and stymies both progress and morale in groups and on teams. Such mistrust requires advanced relationship skills to overcome… Or maybe the relationship just needs to end.
I’m thinking a lot about trust as we prepare for important changes on our national horizon. Words and actions both matter—by public officials, physicians, parents, teachers, friends—we all matter. We can all make a positive difference—it is a choice.
We each bear the responsibility to be trustworthy.