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Unpacking Trust

Posted 5 years ago

The act of trust can be as integral to our working relationships, as it is our personal ones. To be at our best, our working life requires that we trust our co-workers and direct reports. If our default wasn’t to trust others at work, we might never get anything done. Knowing that, how do we teach ourselves to trust others with greater confidence? Human Performance Specialist, Pamela Brooks explains that the key to improving trust begins with first understanding what it is and where it comes from.

Unpacking Trust

by Pamela Brooks

Trust can be as difficult to define as love. Like love we all know when we have it, when we feel it, and we all know when we have lost it. Yet many have no idea how to go about talking about it and better yet, how to gain it back. It was fascinating to find out they actually have a phobia about trusting others–
Pistanthrophobia: Fear of trusting people due to past experiences and relationships gone wrong.
Everyone has experienced the pain of a break in trust at some point in their life and wish they could do something to regain it, fix it, or know when to walk away. So how can we define trust and unpack this large “CONCEPT” in such a way that we can actually understand it, what it means to different people, and how different people experience it. Better yet, how can we unpack it so that we find ways to maintain and build it!
The Neuroscience of Trust
It is important to note that trust and distrust happen at the same time in different parts of the brain. Thus the ability to be undecided! Distrust happens in the back part of the primal brain and amygdala, where-as trust happens in the frontal cortex. There becomes a chemical war of sorts, to decide which part of the brain wins. With distrust we experience a surge of cortisol. When we experience trust, we get a surge of oxytocin. So how do we help the positive side win?
The Key to Breaking Down What Trust Is
Brene Brown, in her research for the book Rising Strong, came up with the acronym for the different areas of trust that she found–
BRAVING: Boundaries – Reliability – Accountability – Vault – Integrity – Non-Judgment – Generosity. She explained the key to improving trust is to break it down into understandable chunks.  This makes it easier to talk about and work on it, instead of saying, “I don’t trust you!”. Brown’s chunking process enables us to talk about our accountability, or a boundary and come to a clear solution.
When we don’t see eye to eye with someone — or we perceive them as being different — the primal brain wakes up and we tend to distrust. When we can define these differences in our logic center and talk about the story we are telling ourselves, we can then reduce the triggers and work on strengthening the connections that lead to greater trust.
In my work as a human performance specialist for the past 13-years, I have found a combination of assessments that reveal information about a person’s motivations, behavior and judgment. They provide incredible insights into how different people perceive what is trust and trustworthy and what can hijack them into a state of distrust (fight or flight). The combination of these three assessments become a language or model of understanding that John Mayer describes as being essential to Personal Intelligence. They help an individual understand themselves, while providing a way to understand themselves in relation to others. Instead of being judgmental, which can trigger instant distrust, we can see things in perspective and then negotiate the differences. They are great for relationship building and team building.
Awareness: Where Our Feeling of Trust Comes from
Our Motivations (via Motivators assessment): Our motivations determine the degree of attraction (or push back) we have to different people and situations that line up with our core motivators. In Kathy Horney’s work on disconnection and dealing with shame, she points out that we have an instant reaction to be pulled towards things we like or away from things we do not.
Our Behavior (via DISC assessment): DISC was grounded in the emotional styles of people, before it was labeled as a personality type assessment, and gives great insight into what types of situations can cause people to trigger a fight or flight response. It can also give a clear idea of how they may respond in a stressful situation and even how they are adapting in the moment, whether it is a positive proactive response or potentially maladaptive.
Our Thinking/Judgment/Process (via Hartman Value Profile assessment): Clear and balanced judgment can go a long way into making the right connections that enable us to trust others. Our judgment affects our ability to have a learning mindset or a skeptical mindset. According to Brene Brown, there is as much a need for self-trust as there is a need to trust others, and the internal side of the judgment report can give great insight into a person’s realistic awareness or self-doubt. The judgment report will help you understand how well an individual puts trust in people, from too much to too little, trust in their ability to do the job or execute a solution, and even their trust in the leadership and authority around them, from questioning it, to wanting things to go their own way.


☆WEBINAR TODAY☆ (Wednesday, June 15) about the Insights Report, developed by this story’s author Pamela Brooks. The Insights Report combines the three assessments detailed above (DISC, Motivators, HVP).


Pamela Brookstrust founded Cornerstone Consulting over ten years ago, out of her passion for understanding human performance and human performance potential. Her interest in performance started many years earlier as a collegiate athlete and collegiate advisor. She wanted to understand what drives people to succeed and then help them tap their strengths and confront personal obstacles so they could increase their potential for success
Pam is also the Vice President of Education at the Robert S Hartman Institute, where she coordinates their efforts on a global level. Her directive is to increase both the Educational and Research efforts of the Institute and plans on launching new directives to increase the application and teaching of Robert Hartman’s work in Value Judgment, ethics, leadership, World Peace, and the many other applications of Axiology.