Trust is the product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work,
attention and full engagement. Brene Brown
We are living in a world where there is a crisis of trust. Brene Brown is a well-known research professor at the University of Houston who has spent her career studying courage, vulnerability, shame, empathy and trust.
Over the course of her research, she found that trust is built in the small moments of life. When asked about building trust, people cited events that included being asked about a loved one who is sick; a neighbor who helped when a child was sick; when a friend attended a family member’s funeral; and when someone is willing to ask for help.
After identifying what kind of moments built trust, she expanded her research
project to discover what specific elements make up trust. She uses the acronym BRAVING to represent those necessary ingredients, because when we trust, we are braving connection with someone.
BRAVING is an acronym for:
1. Boundaries—there is no trust without boundaries. It is necessary that each person has boundaries. You must know your own boundaries and be clear about them, and you need to be clear about the other person’s boundaries as well. Knowing the boundaries is not enough to create trust; the boundaries must be respected.
2. Reliability—It is important to consistently do what you say you are going to do. As a researcher, Brown looks for things that are valid and reliable. For something to be considered reliable, it must be seen over and over again. Once is not enough. You cannot earn trust if you only follow through on your intentions every once-in-a-while. That does not fit the definition of reliability. In order to be reliable, we must be clear about our limitations so that we don’t make commitments to do more than we’re capable of handling.
3. Accountability—everyone makes mistakes and falls short. In a relationship, making mistakes and failing is not the problem. It is the norm. The problem comes when we do not take responsibility for our mistakes, apologize and make amends. We also contribute to the problem when we do not allow others to take responsibility for their mistakes. When someone hurts you, crosses your boundaries, or lets you down, dismissing it with a “no problem” is being untrustworthy. We must be accountable for our actions and allow others to be accountable for theirs if we are to build trust.
3. Vault—this is the part of us where we store confidential, private, intimate information. She calls it the vault because it protects information.
The vault has a one-way entrance. Brown found through her research that if we share information that is not ours to share, we are being untrustworthy. She calls it “common enemy intimacy.” It is a counterfeit trust. The vault means that you respect other people’s stories. When you are given information about another person, you don’t have to be told it is confidential and to keep it private. Instead, if you are trustworthy, you automatically put it in the vault where it will stay.
4. Integrity— Brown’s definition of integrity has three components: choosing
courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast and
easy; and practicing your values instead of simply talking about them.
5. Non-judgment–-Trust makes it possible to be in relationships where each person can ask for help and be struggling without being judged for it. This is reciprocal, meaning both can ask for help and give help. This is hard because most of us are better at giving help than asking for help. When you think less of yourself for needing help, you also think less of those to whom you had to give help. That judgment can tear trust apart.
6. Generosity—In a trusting relationship, one assumes the most generous interpretation about the other person’s intentions, words and behaviors.
Rather than avoiding a conversation when you feel hurt or angry, you check in with them at the first possible opportunity. You allow the emotional space to talk to them about the experience.
Trust is one of the most important aspects in any relationship, professional or personal. If you cannot trust the person you are with, you cannot have intimacy and closeness. Everyone must decide if someone is trustworthy. When we break trust down into these parts, it helps us become clear and makes it possible to talk about trust. We can be specific about what is not working and find ways to correct the problem and grow trust.