Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thoughts on Trust

One thing I believe about trust is, when people work reciprocally in reinforcing mutual trust between them, the trust will magnify, and the chains of trust between them hold stronger than ever.
On the other hand, when people are ignorant about the works of trust-building, the trust will crumble and the chain will break.


Have you ever played a team-building game called "the circle of trust", or "the leaning willow"?

It's the game when someone should stand in the middle of a circle of people, where this one person is instructed to cross his or her arms tight on the chest, close the eyes, then just let his or her body fall into everyone's hands. Meanwhile, everyone in the circle is instructed to stand steadily and ready to catch the falling partner. When you trust your circle enough, you would feel the bliss of letting go and feeling safe in others' hands. Here's the picture of how we play the game:

The bliss of trusting (Asri's Photo Bank)


We played that game in an office retreat last year, and I enjoyed the moments when steady hands caught my falling body and turned it around by giving it to other gentle, steady hands in the circle. The game's instructions sound easy, but it turned out that it's not that easy for everybody to really let go and put their safety in others' hands.

Some people I know couldn't enjoy the process. They kept on opening their eyes, worrying if they would fall off. Some other bodies were stiff and inflexible, indicating that they were holding the lack of trust - on the steadiness of the supporting hands, on their own safety, on their own ability to sway. Some other admitted that they were afraid if they were too heavy for others to hold. Some simply said that they didn't feel comfortable.

When we took turn we could tell which ones of our friends were taking the game easily, and which ones were holding back. We, the supporting hands, could feel when there was lack of trust within.

When you trust everyone around you, you don't have to worry if you'd fall (Asri's Photo Bank)


In real life, the business of trust goes in similar ways. We feel the trust when we are really sure that the people who, or the tools that (we expect to) support us don't mess up. The confidence might come from the realization that our supporting group have understood the rules and the ways to ensure our safety. When it comes to adventurous sports like rappeling or scuba diving (I mention only these two sports because those are the only quite adventurous sports I've done), trust would come with the realization that our gears and tools are in the perfect shape and functions. Believing that those gears and tools are okay takes some preliminary tests.

In scuba diving we did a thorough check on the tools. We try to breathe in and out from our regulator and octopii before we buckle our BCD (stands for Buoyancy Control Device - a set of diving vest) on. I would feel safe when I know that my diving buddy is an attentive, caring and skilled enough person. In rappeling we have to check the ropes, harness, and carabiners, making sure that they are not torn or loose. We double, or even triple check the knots and buckles.

I studied basic information on the ocean current and the underwater landscape before I dive, and I inquire some information, or check the rock and soil formation myself before rappeling. I need good instructions before I jump so I know what to do to secure my life in those games. I would feel very confident when (1) After thorough checks, I am sure that I work with the 'right' person and tools, (2) when I know the rules and instructions well and I know that others follow that very rules, and (3) when I know the ground where I stand well - of course after some preliminary information or on-the-spot check. Those 3 factors are enough to get me into the fun of any adventurous stuff.

Trust is a two-ways exercise. Aside from our individual efforts to make sure, then to feel sure about what we do with others, our support group tends to support us better if they feel that we confide in them. In the circle of trust game, it's more irritating to play in the supporting group when the person in the middle of the circle keeps on opening his/her eyes or keeping on worrying about their weight, the way the fall, or whether we would not notice his/her swaying direction attentively. The weight of that person also feels heavier when s/he is standing stiff.

Distrust might come from past discouraging experiences. My friends who were afraid if they were too heavy admitted that they had been exposed to too much negative comments on their weight. It can also come as the result of the lack of knowledge. Those who didn’t feel secure to just sway might not know that this kind of game is completely safe and that people in supporting circle tends to take their protective sides seriously for the amount of trust given to them.

You might have ever heard that trust takes both instinct and logical considerations. Somehow you might say that you just "know" that you can trust someone. It's not as simple "I just know", actually. I believe that we, human, have the capacity to store some important information for self-survival. Our brain records the signs and traits of the persons and circumstances that are related to the secure and insecure states fro our direct personal experiences.

Ignorance is a threat to trust-building. It's like in a situation when you get a diving buddy who ignored the rules and commitment to stick together all through the dive. Not only it hurts to the heart for it signifies a degree of ignorance, but also it can be fatal. What would happen if there is an accident and one of us need air supply from another? You may pass out - that's the minimum risk - and you'll have to spend a week in a decompression chamber to recover.


We, often hear our partners saying that we'd better just trust them. But when trust is to hold, would you hold on to something that is unsteady?

Trust is to hold (Asri's Photo Bank)


Walking with trust does not equal to walking blind. When we feel that there is something wrong, we should step back and reflect, and take both your instinct and your logical consideration into account. Why does it feel suspicious? Why does it feel uncomfortable? When the end result just goes, "nah, I'm PMS-ing" - then you're pretty good. After that week you'd be okay. But when – in ANY KINDS of human relationship - you clearly see the signs of;

Disrespect. it includes some verbal expressions of: "No, I don't have a time to talk with you", "You're stupid" (the disrespect is so obvious, isn't it?:/), "You're boring", "I'm fed up of you", "get out of my house, now!" (imagine the worst scenario: it is said at 3 a.m. in winter night after a blizzard), or non-verbal acts of flirting with almost every guy/girl s/he meet, being super late for a date, chat on Skype, or call, or keeps on telling you to just summarize your story because he's not into listening to you. If s/he can be punctual for everyone else but you, why can't s/he do the same to you?

Ignorance: "I don't care about what you're thinking", "I can do whatever I want and you can't control me" , "we can have an affair but I'm not responsible about your marriage"

Disability to negotiate: "I don't want to talk about this: I can hang out with anyone I want.", "I'm bored of this conversation.", "You ask too much", or "We have nothing else to discuss.", (while you DO have things to discuss).

It's really time to question whether it's worth to work on ANYTHING with the person who expresses all those reactions to you. None can really share or build the trust if they are treated in those negative ways. We all know that a good professional or personal relationship take respect, caring, and understanding. Without those, would we feel happy? Would we feel secure? Would we feel confident that the human relationship that we build is meaningful to us?

Distrust is like the sea water to the steel. Not only that it would conceal the steel's shine under the rust stains, it would even break and crumble the steel apart. You want to shine. You don't want to break.

Trust, on the other hand, is bright and beautiful. My most recent example will be Kay, a great woman in a local radio in Banda Aceh, whom I trust so much. She is very attentive, smart, creative, kind, and professional. I guess she wins my trust because first, she fits my ideal standards.

Secondly, we both have a common interest: philanthropy. With her capacity as the program director, she produces and broadcasts civic education programs in her station, even though those programs do not deliver any profit. I did the same when I was a radio program director in Java, back then in 2005. We both agree that radio is responsible for educating the communities, and thus it should not only boost non-educative yet profitable programs, but it also have to find ways to deliver educative messages in the most engaging ways. Common interest connects your minds. I learned that like-minded people tend to trust each other because I think it’s comfortable to have a hint on the thinking and decision-making processes. It feels really good to work with her. I feel that now I don’t have to talk too much and she would understand what I want and what I mean, and she would come out with the outputs that fit exactly my expectations or even much better.

Thirdly, we have exercised our trusts toward each other in many projects, and we, with our like-mindedness, worked our best in fulfilling each other’s responsibilities and expectations. We are keen about kind words, about confirming and reconfirming, about sharing productive suggestions, and about apologizing as soon as things didn’t go as well as we expected.

This month we produce 10,000 copies of educational CD containing the songs and stories on disaster risk reduction to be distributed to the communities. Today she delivered the mastered recording that was produced while I was away taking care of my mom who was hospitalized in my hometown. I just left her with edited scripts with notes here and there on musical background and sound effects needed, explanations on each story-teller’s characters and what to do about them. She did the job that I planned to do before that sudden trip back home.

Because I fully trusted her, I didn’t feel the urge to fly back to Aceh to directly supervise the recording and production processes. I could take time to take care of my mom until she recovered, and next, just needed to check the pre-mastered recordings, gave some inputs and asked her to go on with the finalization of the recording. I could have my leave from work peacefully because I know she wouldn’t let me down. That's how peaceful trust is.

I think in professional world, satisfactory performance affirms the trust, in which any satisfactory performance comes with the willingness to listen, paying attention to expected details, good communication, honesty, and fair agreements between both sides that can only be reached through good negotiation process based on sincere respect and the will to be kind to each other. If only we can translate those modalities of trust into any other kinds of relationship, our world will be a better place to live. (*waving hand like a beauty pageant*) :)

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