“We can’t ask people to give us something that we do not believe we are worthy of receiving. And you will know you are worthy of receiving it when you trust yourself above everyone else.” ~ Brené Brown
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If someone said to you, “I don’t trust you”, would that not be one of the most hurtful things anyone could say to you? Why is that? I recently watched the lessons from one of Brené Brown’s online courses, The Anatomy of Trust, and was quite captivated by the gravity of trust in our lives. The course is free, mainly comprised of videos, so I encourage you to check it out.
Brené describes an event in her own life where she was able to illustrate the meaning and importance of trust. When her daughter, Ellen, was in 3rd grade she came home one day devastated by the events that unfolded after she told a friend something private. Everyone in the class soon found out and was teasing her. Despite feeling she would never trust anyone again, Brené compared friends you can trust to the marble jar Ellen’s teacher used for the students to earn a class party. Marbles could be put in or taken out of the jar depending on class behavior. Brené told Ellen that the people we share our stories with are ‘marble jar friends’.
As it turns out, the marbles people earn are small acts, not grand gestures. Brené’s research demonstrates this clearly. One common theme people described was someone showing up to a funeral for their loved one. Another was someone asking for help. This latter point really speaks to me as the more vulnerable someone is, the more endearing they become to me. It is difficult to trust someone when they always seem to offer help but never seem willing to ask for and receive it themselves.
Dr. John Gottman is a well known relationship expert who has also found through his research that trust is built in very small moments. Not surprisingly trust and betrayal are the main issues couples face. He calls these moments “sliding door” moments, after the movie Sliding Doors. He says, “In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.”
He goes on to give an example of a sliding door moment from his own life. One night, while reading a mystery novel and nearing the end to uncovering the killer, he savored the moment before finding out and walked past the bathroom. He saw the reflection of his wife brushing her hair in the mirror with a sad look on her face. This was a sliding door moment.
As tempting as it was to pretend he didn’t see her face and curl up with his book again, he approached his wife and asked her why she looked so sad. As you can imagine, that moment built trust. That was a marble in his jar that his wife had labeled for him. Connection builds trust, and the alternative scenario of walking away, erodes trust.
“BRAVING” to build trust
In order to build trust with others, we must first build trust with ourselves. It falls in line with the concept that we can’t truly love someone else if we do not love ourselves. In Brené’s Trust course, she reference’s Maya Angelou’s quote:
“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
Through Brené’s research she identifies seven elements of trust with the acronym “BRAVING”:
B – boundaries ⇒ willing to say no
R – reliability ⇒ don’t over promise
A – accountability ⇒ own your mistakes
V – vault ⇒ I like how she defines it in her book Rising Strong:
“Your don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.”
I – integrity ⇒ practice values not just profess them
N – non-judgment ⇒ ask for help
G – generosity ⇒ generous in spirit & actions
These represent key values in forming relationships.
The Marble Jar Exercise
Most of us would have very few people in our lives who are marble jar people, where they continue to earn marbles. Consider the following two questions which have been adapted from the “Marble Jar Exercise” in Brené’s Anatomy of Trust course:
1) Who do you consider marble jar friends/family in your life?
2) How do people earn marbles in your life?
Brown, B. (2015). Rising Strong. Spiegel & Grau: New York.