The Trust Hangout: An experiment in hosting deeper conversations pt3
In this final part of the three-part series, we conclude our coverage of Christine Locher and Mike Shaw's recent hangout discussion on trust.
Rabbi René Pferzel
Trust is a positive frame of mind that attempts to give some meaning or order to a world that seems often pointless or purposeless. Some say it is the belief that the future is not meaningless, that things happen for a reason.
The person of faith will say that God has a purpose for us, that everything comes from God and therefore is meant to be good. In that case, faith is synonym with trust. Others believe that we are here to learn and to grow, that everything makes a sense and has a purpose. They are confident that life has a meaning.
Trust is also an essential part of our survival strategies. We need to trust that we have the capacity to lead meaningful lives, that we are responsible human beings endowed with freedom of choice. As human beings, sociable by virtue of our very nature, trust is the energy that creates relationships.
One who doesn’t have trust in others is condemned to live a life of fear, resentment and loneliness.
Trust is the interpersonal cement, the bond between two souls that recognise sincerity in a relationship. Indeed, the foundation of any relationship is based on trust at first. I need to trust my fellow that they will not try to take advantage of me, that they are trustworthy, and I can rely on them.
[Trust] starts by open conversations, but acknowledging first what is flawed within us, and by accepting to be challenged.
Despite its sheer importance for healthy relationships, trust is also a very fragile sentiment. It can be broken very easily and very quickly with lies and deceit.
It is almost an unconscious reaction to one’s words and attitude, and if one 'feels' a discrepancy between words and actions, between acts and consequences, trust can be lost very rapidly. Building trust is a long process. Breaking it can be done in the blink of an eye.
This fragility is true between two lovers, as it is true between members of a family. On a larger scale, there is nothing more damaging in a community or a society than the lack of trust. There is no surprise in an authoritarian society.
Those in power are not held accountable, and they do what they want, even using violence legitimised by their status. A democratic society is based on a fragile social contract that presupposes trust between citizens and those in charge. It is in the interest of those who want to destroy democracy to damage first trust in the democratic institutions.
As Yuval Noah Hariri has brilliantly demonstrated, much of human relationships are based on narratives that we tell each other. A consensus is needed for these narratives to operate. And trust is part of this consensus.
Rebuilding trust takes time. It requires honesty and openness. It starts by open conversations, but acknowledging first what is flawed within us, and by accepting to be challenged. Martin Buber has defined God as 'The Eternal Thou'.
The 'I and Thou' connection requires a risk. I am prepared to take the risk of allowing you closer to me. I am willing to welcome you near my personal truth, and I am ready to be inspired and influenced by yours. Then, and only then, will we be able to build a relationship based on trust.
Conclusion, Christine Locher
So, what about you then? What is trust for you? Why is it important? From your experience, what destroys trust? How can we rebuild it?
Trust is as personal as it gets, things got real very quickly in our conversation. Each of our three guests had some time to share their thoughts, and then we had an open flowing conversation with everyone. It was beautiful, it tickled the mind and comforted the heart.
We co-created something that night, we had a space, we shared, explored and allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. When we left, we left as different people.
In the bin fire that is 2020 with all its constraints, it’s been spaces like this I’ve been missing the most. Undulating joint meaning-making, no slides, no rapid-fire bullet points with questions at the end where there is never enough time.
Instead, time to watch an idea make contact with someone, see it ripple out across their face, entering mind and heart, theirs and in return, yours. It’s a dance that we are all in, panel, audience and in the end we were all participants, humans amongst other humans. A near-life experience. We used to have lots of these. We used to be good at that.
Let’s keep creating human spaces, with ourselves and with each other. Trusting our minds and hearts, our human ingenuity and our spirit of co-creation.
A lot of that still works, if we want it to.
Our being human is with others, the idea of 'Ubuntu' – I am because you are. The global pandemic hit home how connected we are, whether we like it or not, whether we are aware or not. It also showed us how different each of our individual experiences and needs are in this, and how big the gaps are for some of us, who we listen to and who we don’t.
We talk a lot about tech, but most of this is about intent really.
As we create spaces and design programs, as we keep bringing people together: How do we build the kind of spaces that trust wants to live in? As things get ever more fractured, and as authenticity is turning into yet another tired leadership trope for the privileged, where and how do we meet? Like, really meet?
The village pub is closed, and so are most of the spaces we go to to find ourselves and each other, where we encounter people and ideas we don’t normally hang out with. Everything is now a <insert tech>-call, over-scripted, and with slides. The Yiddish language has recent added 'oysgezoomt' (zoomed out) as a new word. I have started handwriting letters to friends again.
Your team mates are on the other side of the world, or on the other side of town, which in a 2020 lockdown is practically the same thing. We feel stuck in more ways than one, and we grieve, and often don’t know what we are grieving about exactly. Work is where we live now.
Trust is hard to keep under some of the circumstances we are in right now where nobody knows what’s going on, and everyone wants answers. There. Is. So. Much. Noise.
I can’t shake the romantic notion of a market that actually works, a place where people share who they are and bring their gifts, completing each other in the sharing, building something amazing together. A potluck dinner of the soul. Trust lives well at that table, so do we.
As we 'make this virtual' in our L&D roles, because it’s 2020 and because that is our job now if we still have one, let’s be brave in how we design, what we do and what we decide not to do. We own this space, we are stewards of what happens here, let’s take this role seriously. Because it matters.
We still design people-spaces with what we do. Where and by which medium these happen matters, of course, and our best-laid plans will often only be as good as the WiFi of the day. But the technicalities matter a lot less than we think as we are having our conversations in the learning space.
Let’s keep creating human spaces, with ourselves and with each other. Trusting our minds and hearts, our human ingenuity and our spirit of co-creation. Our yearning to help people and things to get better. Let’s support each other as there won’t be perfect or easy answers, and the pressure is relentless.
Let’s be deliberate. What we think a space is, who we invite into it and what we want to happen in them. What these spaces want to look and feel like as a result. In many ways, as geographic distances disappear, that is easier, and we are not making good enough use of it.
Let’s meet. Really meet. And then start rebuilding from there.
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