I’m hosting a workshop next week called “Building Trust” so I’ve been thinking a lot about trust.
When I ask myself, “What is trust?” my responses are really just a series of platitudes:
Trust is doing what you’ll say you’re going to do.
Trust is about keeping your promises.
Trust is being consistent in your behaviors.
Trust is about telling the truth.
Trust has to be earned.
Trust takes years to build and can disappear in a minute.
Really? I’m not so sure. Like all platitudes, there is some truth in each of these statements but it seems that there is also so much more.
What about when I’m carrying boxes and bags of stuff into my building over every shoulder and wrist and a stranger speeds up ahead of me and offers to hold the door open? I trust that that person is going to hold the door open, not slam it in my face. (I just moved my office so this one is personal for me!)
I love (and hate) when a stop light is out and the police put a big red stop sign on a sandwich board in the middle of the intersection. It never ceases to amaze me that people just take turns. We trust each other to be orderly and to do what needs to be done to keep us all moving. Is there occasionally the person who sneaks through when it’s not their turn? Yep. Does that mean that it can’t possibly work? Nope.
What about when I really screw something up and you walk up next to me, look at the mess and ask, “What can I do to help?” It’s an incredible feeling when I can be certain that you are really there to help and not to say “I told you so.” (If we’re close, I might even feel certain that you are going to let me try again.)
Maybe trust is happening all the time.
I’ve been watching (okay – true confession I’ve been obsessively binge-watching) the Battlestar Gallactica series. Edward James Olmos plays the admiral. In a particularly suspenseful moment – with humanity’s very survival hanging in the balance – he’s about to send a member of the enemy race that obliterated the human race to the surface of a planet to save the few thousand remaining human beings.
As she’s leaving she says to him, “How do you know you can trust me?”
He responds, “I don’t. That’s why it’s trust.”
Trust is that leap, that choice to open ourselves to the possibility of connection and, in the same breath, to expose ourselves to the possibility of deep disappointment.
I believe that trust can be found and nurtured in our relationships whether we’re friends, lovers, co-workers, strangers or even enemies, if we choose to see it as a possibility.
It’s simple… but definitely not easy.