Six ways to counter-balance fear with trust

by Hazel Chapman

Trust is the fuel of collaboration and endeavour. It’s the foundation of teamwork and a functioning society. It’s the heartbeat of peace , growth and successful change in the world.

Whether in your home, your workplace, your community, or on the world stage, you will not escape this fundamental human requirement to successful relationships.

Trust reflects our sense of safety and wellbeing, and the lack of it, that essential and instinctive gut-felt message that tells us whether to run (avoidance, escapism), fight (resistance, blame) or freeze (denial, inertia), is a sign that our sense of survival and self-protection is functioning healthily. We are biologically designed to both trust and to fear to survive – trust those who can protect and support you, fear those who don’t.

However, as threats in our environment increase, like the pandemic and increased isolation, the risk to our essential resources, the environmental crisis etc. our instinctive danger alert system may have become constantly switched on, making collaborative endeavours more difficult. In short, the more stressed we are, the less we trust, the more we fear.

In these challenging Pandemic and Post-Pandemic times, if you wish to grow collaboration, creativity and healthy, productive relationships, you will need to over-invest to counter-balance the negative effects of everyday stress.

Six ways to grow trust are:

1. Make contact more often

Our instinctive response to absence is to think someone doesn’t care. Someone reaching out to us and showing interest can go a long way to establishing trust. Of course, the Pandemic has led us to be less physically connected but has also shown us just how much can be achieved in the virtual space. The challenge here whether face to face or virtual is to create space for honest connection rather than staying on task. Are you visible and connecting enough?

2. Confirm and reconfirm your positive intention toward others

In the task-driven, speed culture of today, it’s easy to assume everyone only needs rational information. However, trust requires us to know in our gut that someone has good intentions towards us. Check your intentions in your communications and where you can explicitly and repeatedly remind others of why you value them and your relationship with them. Are you saying this often enough?

3. Reveal your hand

Secrets and a lack of information feed our sense of threat. Even when there is nothing to tell, tell people what you don’t know yet. Even better, share your personal experience – the more honest the reveal, the stronger the invitation to trust. What can you share that would help others to trust?

4. Listen & notice

Listening and noticing what others do, say, how they appear and the impact they have on you, is a simple but extremely powerful way to build trust. We all have an innate desire to be seen, and simply put, we appreciate and are more likely to trust those who see and notice us. This is the magic key of leadership, stepping away from your own busy-ness and personal story long enough to listen and notice what is going on around you and in the lives of others. What are you noticing from those around you right now?

5. Be consistent

Reliability builds safety and safety builds trust – knowing you have my back, knowing what you stand for, knowing the limits of your patience and knowing what you need. Consistent communication emphasizing values, needs and expectations, calms fear and builds trust. Are you mutually sharing your expectations regularly enough?

6. Exchange thoughtful fair feedback more often

You can do all the above by giving thoughtful fair feedback more often – feedback given thoughtfully and with good intent deepens trust. However, feedback given with judgment and carelessness, destroys trust, as does an absence of feedback. Which spiral are you creating?

Perhaps most important, however, is our self-awareness and self-compassion to notice when we don’t manage it. As we better understand our own fears, we understand what is in the way for others and we can work to create a better climate of trust for everyone.

Hazel Chapman is an experienced executive coach, team coach and leadership development educator. She is the founder and director of  Courage2Lead, a boutique executive development practice, supporting leaders to shape the future today. She is also a member of the Leadership Faculty for Duke Corporate Education, the Institute of Leadership & Management and Emeritus Education and regularly talks and writes on topics that build courageous leadership.