Trust is one of the most important aspects of relationships

People say that trust is the #1 characteristic they want in a partner, and trust is what makes human communities work.

According to leading relationship experts, John and Julie Gottman, qualities related to trust and trustworthiness are the most important characteristics people want in a spouse or partner. But how do we build trust? Feelings of trust tend to be built in small moments such as when we show up for each other, listen when others are upset and when we prioritize our important relationships over other people and things. John Gottman shares that in addition to being important in marriages and other intimate relationships, trust is essential to what makes human communities of all kinds work. In other words, without trust there can be no meaningful connection between people.

While trust is one of the most common words in the English language, it’s also commonly misunderstood. Trust may mean different things to different people—particularly across differences. Researcher and educator, Brené Brown, emphasizes the importance of breaking down the concept of trust into specific qualities and behaviors so that it can be more easily understood.  Drawing from her extensive research, Brown offers the acronym BRAVING to share qualities that contribute to building and sustaining trust in relationships with partners, friends, family members and co-workers:

B = Boundaries

Can I trust you to be clear about what is okay and not okay in this relationship? Can I trust you to understand and respect my boundaries? Are you willing to say “no” and respect my need to say “no” sometimes? Do you understand that setting boundaries is often one of the most loving things we can do in our relationships?

R = Reliability

Will you follow through and do what you say you’re going to do? Can I trust that you won’t over promise on your ability or capacity to complete tasks or projects? Are you able to balance competing priorities? Can I trust these things about you consistently and over time?

A = Accountability

Can I trust that when you make a mistake that you will own it, apologize and make amends? Am I willing to hold myself accountable for the mistakes I make as well?

V = Vault

Do you hold in confidence what I share with you? Do we hold in confidence what others have shared with us when those stories are not ours to share?

I = Integrity

Can I trust that you will act from your integrity including choosing courage over comfort; choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy; and practicing your values and not just professing them.

N = Non-judgment

Do I know that I can fall apart and be in struggle and pain and that you won’t judge me?  Do I trust that you will reach out to me when you are also in pain and struggle so that I can have the opportunity to be supportive?  Are we able to regularly offer and ask for help from each other?

G = Generosity

Will you assume that my intentions are good—and when you’re not sure, will you check it out with me? Can we make generous assumptions and interpretations of ourselves and others in terms of words, behaviors and actions?

Trust is an important and tender aspect of all relationships because it requires us to choose to be vulnerable and courageous. When we have learned to distrust someone, it’s usually because we’ve come to understand that what we share with them or what’s important to us is not safe with that person. You can learn more about trust by signing up with Courage Works and taking a free online class called The Anatomy of Trust which includes videos featuring Brené Brown, activities, worksheets and a downloadable poster that features information about BRAVING.  

Michigan State University Extension provides emotional resiliency resources to help you learn more about self-compassion, mindfulness in the workplace, formal and informal mindfulness practices, and offers educational sessions called Stress Less with Mindfulness.

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