When running team-building workshops, we typically explore the issue both of gratitude and trust. We tell teams that their success as a team is a feature of the degree to which each member of the team is willing to give unconditionally to their colleagues in order to set the colleagues up for success. This is what makes a team, rather than a collection of individuals. You have a team when the members of the team are not just there for themselves but are there for each other.
We help teams understand that gratitude and trust are the two keys that enable this to happen in a team. So, for a team to truly unite and succeed together, they need to all be appreciative of one another. Furthermore, they must all be willing to invest trust in one another.
Is it Wrong to Trust?
One of the objections we often get is that it is not appropriate to trust people. Many people have the view that it is in some sense a virtue to not trust people. Many people in fact have this as one of their guiding philosophies for life, that you can’t trust people. Distrust then is, for many people, a deliberate choice.
It is perhaps understandable that people are hesitant to do so. Because it requires courage insofar as it requires that we take a risk with people. We naturally feel exposed and at risk when we invest trust in a person. Even so, the inability to trust is immensely damaging on our relationships. Both in a personal context and in a work context.
Take marriage for example. It is often said that trust is a necessary part of a healthy marriage and it is useful to properly consider why this is the case. Firstly, one should consider that the way in which distrust manifests itself in a relationship like marriage is in controlling behavior. When I do not trust you, I will try and control you. And controlling behavior is one of the primary causes of dysfunction in a marriage. No one ever happily said of their spouse, “yes he/she is very controlling”. The more extreme the distrust, the more extreme the controlling behavior, and the more damage it has on the relationship.
And ironically, the controlling behavior will naturally produce a rebelliousness in the person you are trying to control. Until at some point they will act against you as the one who is trying to control them. This is sad in a sense because this will just serve to confirm for you that you can’t trust them and this produces a vicious cycle. The more I distrust, the more I control the other, the more they rebel and ultimately, the more I distrust.
What if someone breaks it?
It is also important to remember that when you invest trust in a person and they break it, it does not say anything about you as the person who invested trust. But rather, it says everything about the person who broke it. And this is the true value of the ability to trust people. When you trust people, you give them an opportunity to show exactly who they are, and until you trust them you cannot know.
Because, once again, when you don’t trust a person, you will try and control them. When you control them, you don’t give them the opportunity to do what they want to do. You essentially put a cage around them. And under these circumstances you will actually never know who they are. This is because you have not given them an opportunity reveal who they are beyond the controls you have put on them. In order to really know who you are dealing with, and to what extent the person is trustworthy, you have to let them out of the cage.
And ultimately it is true that some people are trustworthy and other people are not trustworthy. But you will never be able to tell the difference if you are not willing to take the step in trusting them. Those that have a deep ability to trust and don’t allow their ability to trust be shaken by the fact that a particular individual demonstrates that they are untrustworthy, ultimately will be surrounded by trustworthy people. Because in time, those that you can’t trust will reveal themselves and you can part ways. Those that stick around are only the ones that can be trusted.
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