Trust and the Jar of Marbles
Mary is a primary school teacher who uses a jar of marbles with the children in her class. When they do something trustworthy, she adds marbles to the jar. When they do something to break that trust, she takes some marbles out. If the jar is full at the end of the week, the children get a little treat!
Of course, building trust has always been vital in any relationship – at home or at work. You can’t have a proper, functioning relationship without trust. These days it’s quite literally a matter of life and death.
Almost three months ago, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ahern, asked the people of her country to go into lockdown. At the time there were hardly any cases of Covid 19 in New Zealand, but she had seen what was happening in the rest of the world and decided she had to act swiftly. She asked the country to trust her and they did. As a result, only 22 people died of Coronavirus in New Zealand and yesterday she was able to tell the country that the economy was ready to fully reopen. Their marble jar is full, and they now have their (not so) little treat!
You don’t need me to tell you that there are plenty of things wrong at the moment but reading and watching the news here in the UK, it seems to me that one of the fundamental problems we have is a breakdown of trust. We’re losing trust in our leaders, our institutions and even each other. Our marble jar is empty. I don’t want to argue about when that happened, why that happened or how it happened, but I do think that if we have any chance of truly coming out of this a better country, we need to fill up our jar with marbles.
So how will we do that?
Well, if you have a spare 10-minutes I urge you to watch this superb Ted Talk from Brene Brown, research professor at the Graduate College of Social Work in the University of Houston where she has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, shame and trust. In the video she talks about “The Anatomy Of Trust” and breaks it down into 7 categories using the acronym BRAVING. As you look at these 7 areas, ask yourself honestly: how many of these apply to you and your relationships at home or at work? How many can we say our politicians adhere to?
- Boundaries: knowing and respecting each other’s.
- Reliability: you do what you say you’re going to do over and over again.
- Accountability: own your mistakes, apologise and make amends — and let the other party do the same.
- Vault: not only do you keep the other party’s confidences, but you keep other people’s too. (Gossip about third parties erodes trust.)
- Integrity: know your values and live by them
- Non-judgement: you don’t just build trust by offering help, but by receiving it without judgement as well. “If you can’t ask for help… that is not a trusting relationship,” says Brown.
- Generosity: give the other party the benefit of the doubt. We are human; we make mistakes; but if the first six categories are there, we can afford to be generous.
So please, take a good look at yourself as I am doing today.
This has to start somewhere and it can only start from you. Let’s fill that jar up together and maybe we too will get a little treat before long…