Posts Tagged ‘Trust’

The issue of trust has been a recurring theme again this week – and it has appeared in many guises.  In one situation it was a case of distrust – I observed an overt display of suspicious, sceptical, and cynical behaviour. In another situation it was a case of mistrust – a misplaced confidence in my own intuition. My illogical and irrational heart said one thing but when my mind worked through the problem logically and rationally my intuition was proved incorrect. In another it was a case of rewarded-trust: positive feedback that showed a respectful challenge had resulted in a win-win-win outcome. And in yet another a case of extended-trust: an expression of delighted surprise from someone whose default position was to distrust.

Improvement Science rests on two Foundation stones Trust and Capability. First to trust oneself to have the confidence and humility to challenge, to learn, to change, to improve, to celebrate and to share; second to extend trust to others with a clear explanation of the consequences of betraying that trust; and third in building collective trust by having the courage to challenge trust-eroding behaviour.

At heart we are all curious, friendly, social animals – our natural desire is to want to trust. Distrust is a learned behaviour that, ironically, is the result of the instinctive trust and respect that, as children, we have for our parents.  We are taught to distrust by observing and copying distrustful and disrepectful behaviour by our role models. So with this insight we gain access to an antidote to the emotional poison of distrust: our innate child-like curiosity, desire to explore, appetite for fun, and thirst for knowledge and meaning. To dissolve distrust we only need to reconnect to our own inner child: One half of the foundation of Improvement Science.

Just two, innocent-looking, three-letter words.

So what is the big deal? If you’ve been a parent of young children you’ll recognise the feeling of desperation that happens when your pre-schooler keeps asking the “But why?” question. You start off patiently attempting to explain in language that you hope they will understand, and the better you do that the more likely you are to get the next “But why?” response. Eventually you reach the point where you’re down to two options: “I don’t know!” or “Just because!”.  How are you feeling now about yourself and your young interrogator?

The troublemaker word is “but”. A common use of the word “but” in normal conversation is “Yes … but …” such as in “I hear what you are saying but …”.

What happens inside your head when you hear that?  Does it niggle? Does the red mist start to rise?

Used in this way the word “but” reveals a mental process called discounting – and the message that you registered unconsciously is closer to “I don’t care about you and your opinion, I only care about me and my opinion and here it comes so listen up!”.  This is a form of disrespectful behaviour that often stimulates a defensive response – even an argument – which only serves to further polarise the separate opinions, to deepen the mutual disrespect, and to erode trust.

It is a self-reinforcing negative-outcome counter-productive behaviour.

The trickster word is “why?”  When someone asks you this open-ended question they are often just using it as a shortcut for a longer series of closed, factual questions such as “how, what, where, when, who …”.  We are tricked because we often unconsciously translate “why?” into “what are your motives for …” which is an emotive question and can unconsciously trigger a negative emotional response. We then associate the negative feeling with the person and that hardens prejudices, erodes trust, reinforces resistance and fuels conflict.

My intention in this post is only to raise conscious awareness of this niggle.

If you are curious to test this youself – try consciously tuning in to the “but” and “why” words in conversation and in emails.  See if you can consciously register your initial emotional response – the one that happens in the split second before your conscious thoughts catch up. Then ask youself the question “Did I just have a positive or a negative feeling?