Word Count: 1110
Estimated Reading Time: 8.5 minutes
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen R. Covey
In 2012, a mall in Accra, Ghana collapsed killing several people and injuring others. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that a poorly built foundation was a major cause of the collapse. The foundation wasn’t built well enough to sustain what was built on top of it.
The success of our valuable relationships is of the utmost importance. But successful relationships begin with a strong foundation and trust is the bedrock of any successful relationship whether personally or professionally.
In today’s post, which is also the last installment in our Relationships blog series, I will use the acronym F.I.T. (Functional Intentional Tensional) to describe three specifics to trust. They will help us become more skilled in this vital area of life. I also believe that applying them will avoid relationship collapses caused by distrust.
When my wife and I were getting to know each other before marriage, I developed the habit of saying something but not following through. Over time, I piled up several jars of empty promises. The best gift she gave me was the gift of confrontation, which came with a challenge, “Please be a man who keeps your word, otherwise, how can I trust you?” If there is something I know about men is we rise to the occasion of a challenge. And rise I did. At the time, a strong inclination was forming that she was the one I wanted to do life with for the rest of my life as my wife. An adjustment had to be made for trust to be formed. It changed the flavor and nature of our relationship going forward.
Trust is functional. It is what authentic, vibrant, and fulfilling relationships are centered on. For anything to perform optimally it must first be stable. The mobility level of your body is directly connected to the strength and stability of your core muscles. This stability is created through a process called functional fitness. According to the Mayo Clinic, functional fitness exercises are aimed at aiding you to do everyday tasks more efficiently by emphasizing core stability. Furthermore, functional fitness reduces the risk of injury and improves quality of life.
This is what trust does for relationships when it’s functional. Hence the reason we trust information sources that are consistently reliable and lean heavily on relationships replete with reliability and sincerity. But we must carry an approach of intentionality when it comes to fostering trust.
Trust is a choice that grows over time and consistent action. Sometimes, the best predictor of someone’s future actions is their present ones. I say sometimes because I believe people can change. But, there should be evidence or fruit that change is seriously desired and sought after.
While it takes time to grow it is important to note this universal truth about trust: it can be destroyed in an instant. Therefore as we steadily cultivate trust with others, we must intentionally protect it. Breaking trust sinks our relationships. The foundation they stand on becomes fractured or eroded. When trust is broken, we must immediately be honest and find out how to regain trust. Again time and action are the ingredients. In his instant classic book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey cites, ”One of the best ways to restore trust is to make and keep commitments to ourselves and others.”
According to best-selling author Brene Brown (I highly recommend listening to her TED talk, The power of vulnerability), intentional trust is not built by grandiose gestures in big moments but rather in the simple and daily activities that many consider boring and mundane. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, she references Charles Feltman’s observation that trust is built when over time we prove to others that what is important to them is safe with us. On the other hand, we betray trust when what is important to others is no longer safe with us. Becoming a safe place for another person is the essence of what it means to be trustworthy and there we find the tension of trust.
There is no trust without risk. Trust is actually a daring act. Sorry to sound so extreme. Think about every moment you get into your car. You don’t check under the hood to make sure everything works. You trust the present performance of the car based on its previous performance. We know that cars depreciate and undergo wear and tear but we hardly take the time to conduct a drive checklist as pilots do before flying a plane. As long as there are no warning signs on the dashboard we proceed. Sometimes, we still drive the car when the check engine light is on. At every level of trust, there should be the realization that risk is involved.
And none is more evident than in human relationships. The deeper the trust, the greater the potential for hurt. This is where the tension or risk of trust lies. The people capable of hurting me the most are those closest to me. Why? They know me best. Sometimes I think the greatest display of trust in marriage is the act of sleeping in the same bed without wondering what the person next to you might do to you while you are in dreamland.
While the risk of trust cannot be averted, mitigation is possible by taking steps to develop trustworthiness. To do this, I have created a side by side table. On the left is the “Truth Formation Exercise” (T.F.E.) column and on the right, a “Trust Deeping Action” (T.D.A.) column. The goal is to create simple ways to practice trust that is both functional and intentional.
|Trust Formation Exercise (TFE)||Trust Deepening Action (TDA)|
|1. Be reliable||1. Follow up on what you say (walk your talk).|
|2. Have integrity||2. Don’t post or publicize other people’s private matters.|
|3. Be sincere||3. Always be honest and transparent even when mistakes have been made. Be ready to apologize.|
Final Thought: The mysterious part of trust is that it is strong, yet sensitive. When you have it, it bonds people in relationships like glue. But, it is sensitive enough to crack and create irreparable damage when handled with. neglect or disregard similar to the mall collapse. When we are trusted, we should take it as an honor and carry it like treasure. Trust is the solid ground on which relationships flourish. Always keep in mind that wherever there is trust there will be tests of that trust. Do your best to always ace them.
Keep on Keeping on!