I have been thinking about one's ability to trust and being trustworthy for quite a long time now! I could not go with the argument that if your ability to trust others is a good indicator of your own trust-worthiness! It can also be an indicator of ignorance or stupidity!! I sure recognise the fact that those who are not trustworthy will have tough time trusting others. If untrustable people understand / ascertain that the other person is trustable or ignorant or too magnanimous, they seem to trust them and take it to their advantage. Their own trust-worthiness or the lack of it alone does not seem to determine their ability to trust!!! I also have seen people who try hard to be trustworthy having tough time trusting others. So I am not sure if it is that simplistic to say if you are able to trust, it means that you are also trustworthy.
So the key question many times in life is how do we improve our ability to trust!! As a coach, frequently I end up helping the team members start trusting each other. I use a couple of techniques - the first one is explaining possible reason(s) - the positive ones - for someone's behaviour and asking the team to see if there is a possibility for any more such reasons. Usually such coaching sessions start at a very low energy level but the positive energy gets generated in them is amazing! Teams feel so very excited and/or grateful at the end of the session! The next technique is challenging the assumptions that lead to not trusting others. Though, sometimes this conversation gets tougher to handle, it is essential to break the habit of assuming. It gets tougher when the coach is also responsible for teaching them risk management and techniques like Failure Mode Effect Analysis, SWOT, Threat Model analysis etc. :-) Not only that, the coach may be hated for challenging their belief system! Coaches do not feel afraid to be hated anyways :-) Or put it differently, one can be a coach only if he/she is not afraid of being hated!!
Biggest challenge a coach goes thru is to make the team unlearn! Teaching something all new is a lot easier than making them unlearn what they already know or what they have experienced! If they have had a untrustworthy team member, anybody playing that role becomes untrustable easily only because of their earlier experience! Because they assume this way, they behave overly cautiously. Of course, the other member can understand this - even if they do not understand the reasons, they understand that there is something wrong with the relationship and as a result they behave even more cautiously! With this, they get into a vicious cycle! Remember, statements like, all sales people are liars, all accountants are rude etc., they all stem from the assumption cycle! It gets tougher to get the team out of that habit. Challenging the assumption works better in that case.
As mentioned in many of my earlier articles, applying most of these techniques is easier in professional set up. When it comes to personal environment, anyone who tries to build trust between two / a few other people can be seen as manipulative or intruder or a controller! It is better for the individual to look for ways to break away from the usual thinking, find positive reasons and challenge their own assumptions. It is tough though!! Unlearning is too difficult! It takes considerable effort to unlearn the negativity towards a role in professional environment itself! It can look almost impossible in personal life! Moreover, a lot of generalisations will also happen like in the case of professional life…. The statements like "All women/men are….", "All Indians/Europeans are…", "All cooks/drivers are…", "All neighbours in this neighbourhood are… " etc. are a result of such assumptions, negativity towards one person who represented that role / country! But then, it is all the more important to trust people in personal life! If not, life can be miserable if not hell. I am sure none of us want hell!
How do we make this world feel like heaven? How do we improve trust overall - both being trustworthy and being able to trust?