(Delivering the Intended Message, part 2)
In the last post we explored a model about how a speaker’s intended message can be thwarted. One of the most important keys is a relationship of trust. In this post we will define and dissect what trust is.
One main reason intended messages can be twisted is that there are trust issues between a speaker and a listener. Coming to a conclusion that you don’t trust someone (or they don’t trust you) can lead to a downward spiral in a relationship.
If the relationship is important to you, what can you do to build or regain trust?
Brené Brown has an acronym to define trust in a way that is informative and useful.
The acronym is
B=boundaries (What is acceptable and what is not? Where is the line, the limit?)
R=responsibility ( It’s the ability to respond in any given situation. This includes reasonable expectations of what a person is able to do…that includes self as well as others.)
A = accountability (This is the opposite of blaming others. It is also being willing to report in.)
V = the vault (What I share stays between us and I don’t share with you what is not mine to share (i.e. gossip). If I am trustworthy I consistently keep confidentialities. We sometimes think that a good way to show trust or bonding is to tell a secret about someone. A phrase like ”I probably shouldn’t tell you this but I know I can trust you..” should make us stop in our tracks! When you betray someone else to me it changes my trust level with you. Consciously or subconsciously the listener wonders how this person talks to others about “me”.
I=integrity (choosing courage over comfort, right over what’s fun, fast or easy, and practicing your values not just professing them. It is telling the truth, but not in unkind or judgmental
N=non- judgmental. We can both fall down, mess up and not judge each other.
G=generosity. This means giving someone the highest benefit of the doubt. Think of the most generous probability. “He’s not saying that to hurt me, he’s just stressed out right now and it came out harsh.”
Instead of saying ”I have a trust issue with you” we can be more specific. “We are having an accountability issue. Please get back to me after you finish your task.”
“I trust you but we need to set some boundaries so we both know what to expect.”
“I’m sorry. You probably think I’m not being upfront with you, but that’s confidential and I can’t share more information.”
People need to earn the right of being trustworthy. It is a process that happens over time and over an accumulation of many shared experiences.
Stephen R. Covey wrote about this concept using a bank account analogy.
We build trust by making “deposits” again and again. This is done by paying attention to someone (think child or spouse), giving sincere compliments, and serving in ways that are meaningful to the other person.
When the bank account is more full, then a correcting message, which may feel like a withdrawal from the emotional bank account, might reach the hearer without shutting him or her down.
If we know that someone truly has our best interest at heart a criticism doesn’t seem so critical.
When we develop that relationship of trust then we can truly share the most important message and be heard.
Charles Feltman:” I’m choosing to make something important to me vulnerable to your actions.”
For small children, snuggling with them and reading a picture book together is a great way to build their emotional bank account. The classic “Are You My Mother” never gets old. (Nice video version by a mom reading aloud). Here is a Youtube link to a read-aloud version with a child’s voice of this Dr. Seuss story.
Returning to the power of storytelling, one of the most powerful ways to make a “deposit” in someone’s emotional bank account is to listen whole-heartedly to their story. It is to care enough about them to want to know their angle on any given situation.
It is also knowing their way of telling a story. One of my children has never been very verbal. When she gets emotional in any way she gets very quiet. I have learned with her that she could write more effectively than she could speak her feelings. Gratefully she began a blog where she reveals her story. If I want to see inside her heart I need to take time to read what she has written.
I have other children who are VERY verbal. The challenge there is to hear past the chatter to decode what their deeper stories are. I have to be willing to take time to hear what is important to them even when it may seem trivial to me.
Sometimes it is important to intentionally create an atmosphere where deeper things can be shared. Learning how to do this effectively is one of the purposes of the workshops we have started to organize in Kansas City.
Lani Peterson has done this in the Boston area for various populations including newly released convicts, homeless and youth involved in gangs. Creating an environment where they can safely share their personal stories in meaningful ways has changed how they see themselves and, in turn, has empowered them to rise above difficult circumstances in many cases.
I believe that learning to create these kinds of “safe sharing spaces” will change the world one person and one family at a time. I know that sounds grandiose, but such is the power of story listening and sharing.