We spend time and energy trying to improve our social skills, engage in various relationships, attend networking events and workshops on leadership, management or parenting, yet we are still faced with sub-optimal relationships.
Do you ever wonder why it feels better conversing with a particular friend or colleague, why you intuitively smile when a certain employee walks through your door, or your interactions with a child, partner or sibling feel more easy-going than with the other?
The dynamics of relationships differ based on trust levels. You become more open to the ideas of that colleague, or call more often that friend, or speak more easily with that team. Trust generates more relationship, and a deeper relationship generates more trust.
What we really need then is to strengthen the backbone of every relationship – Trust. In his book the 7 principles for making marriage work, Dr. John Gottman establishes trust as the “protective, weight-bearing walls” that connect all the floors in the “Sound Relationship House” – a metaphor for a gratifying relationship.
How do we increase the level of trust in our relationships?
During my coaching career, I came across numerous definitions and requirements for the space in which a great coaching conversation occurs. Using this type of conversation as an example of a trusting relationship and a fertile ground for growth, here are the 3 things we intentionally need to establish: safety, belonging and dignity.
With a specific relationship in mind, self-reflect or ask the other party about the following:
Safety. We need to feel physically, emotionally and psychologically safe in order to be vulnerable and share our ideas. To create safety, consider:
- Confidentiality: do they feel that conversations will remain confidential?
- No-judgement: do they feel they won’t be judged for their thoughts and opinions?
- Rank: Do they feel free to share their thoughts without being scared of losing status (ex. their job, or your love)?
Belonging we are social beings and we have an inherent need to belong to a community or a team. To increase the sense of belonging in your relationship, consider:
- Tribe: Do they feel part of the team?
- Care: Do they feel genuinely cared for?
- Support: Do they have the support they need?
Dignity There are different perspectives to a given situation. The ability to embrace the other’s position is an attribute of empathy, a high-ranking leadership trait. And when people feel dignified, they, in turn, allow others to feel dignified. To create a culture of dignity in your organization, or at home, here is what to reflect upon:
- Respect: Do they feel respected during the conversation?
- Appreciation: Do they feel appreciated?
- Efficacy: Do they feel that they are contributing to the relationship?
These guiding questions are great, but here are two additional points that must accompany them for increased trust building effectiveness:
- Genuinely listen to the answers that come out of the dialogue or self-reflection process.
- Following through with an action: what is one thing you commit to change or improve based on this discussion or reflection?
Any conversation with a partner or team that does not uphold the three elements of safety, belonging and dignity will leave a dent in the relationship. The more the dents created, the more the relationship feels unfulfilling, the lower the levels of trust and the harder the work required to reset it to previous “normal” levels.
We all are in relationship, and many of us struggle with the issue of trust. Having the courage to inspect the relationships that matter most will bring more serenity to our environments.
From this new, trustful, place anything is possible: conflict is more manageable, change is less forced, feedback is welcome, and fear takes a back seat.