By Tannis Topolisky
We frequently hear people talk about how critically important trust is to a meaningful process that builds community and brings people together.
A simple word, yet so very complex.
What does trust mean? We asked this question recently to a community in an ongoing 80-year conflict in their community and this is what we heard:
- Trust is when you give your word and stick to it, it is your bond and there is no in between. It is genuine
- Trust is your word and your honour, being truthful throughout
- Trust is about being true
- Trust comes with responsibilities and it means you can rely on that person
- Trust is honesty, equality and truthfulness
- Trust is the ability to communicate and collaborate
- Trust is the foundation of responsibility and it means being honest and conducting follow-ups
- Trustworthy is a better word and to be trustworthy you do what you say. People then trust you and rely on you
- Trust is something that you prove and deliver on
- Trust is what we are doing with Dialogue Partners. We trust you to say what we are telling you.
Does meaningful and effective processes and engagement build trust? We don’t think so, and based on the thoughts of those participants it is so much more than this.
It’s not just the “What” that you do, but equally important is the “How” you do this that builds trust.
We have learned that trust is built on three pillars.
#1 – Caring. This is that participants feel cared for, and that their views, interests and values are important. This also means being able to demonstrate compassion, empathy and respect for the situation, experiences and feelings of all participants.
#2 – Commitment. Is that promises made are kept, that the voices are valued and that the input will be documented and reflected back to decision makers.
#3 – Capability. Is about providing the information, processes and support to participants that they need in order to participate in the conversations. This also means the ability to work through the complexities and challenges in order to understand deeply the issues.
We like this description because from what we’ve experienced, each one of them must be present.
This is a fragile set of pillars which can be very easily damaged or destroyed, and that takes time, energy and effort. It must be carefully and respectfully built, so that a meaningful engagement can also build and share trust.