A Question of Trust

By Leigh Johnson – Affiliate Parenting Coach at The Family Counselling Centre

At a recent presentation I gave at The Friday Network to practitioners in the Learning and Development field, I was reminded of how fundamental self awareness and growth is in order for us to impact others. No matter what roles we perform in life, there is an essential need to start growth and change with ourselves first. We often look to the systems we are a part of – families, organisations, communities, nations – and bemoan the problems we see there, when the place we really need to start with is: me! The conversation emanating from my presentation on Trust highlighted this powerfully.

My presentation was called ‘The Business of Trust’ and focused on the importance of, and skills needed in, developing trust in the workplace. What struck me was that, although my audience were there in their professional capacity and came from the perspective of how best to support their clients in organisations to improve relationships, the key learning almost without exception was around two things:

  • Our own trustworthiness – can people trust us?
  • Our ability to trust ourselves – how often are we breaking promises to ourselves, thereby breaking our trust of ourselves?

I found it very interesting that, even in this professional context, the importance of self-development and mastery stood out.

The first of these learnings – trustworthiness – considers the fact that a core component of trust in a relationship is our own trustworthiness. By being trustworthy, reliable and operating with integrity, we automatically invite this behaviour in others. It is ultimately their choice to act in the same way or destroy the trust. What is often the most difficult part of behaving in a trustworthy manner is that it requires us to know ourselves deeply, and be true to ourselves with courage and authenticity – which often goes against the grain of what we want to do. How many times do we fail to speak up when we don’t agree with what is being said, or try to fit into a group just to be liked?

The second one, our trust of ourselves, is an interesting one. I often use the work of Vanessa Hall, an expert on the subject of trust, when working with this topic. Hall has created a model that depicts trust as being the interplay between Expectations, Needs and Promises*. When one of these is compromised, trust is destroyed. She challenges with the question: “How often do I break promises to myself?” Every time we do, we erode our trust in ourselves a little bit more, and this results in increasingly poor self-esteem, and increasingly untrustworthy behaviour.

“I don’t break promises to myself”, you say? Or “I’m the only person I can trust”? Well, I thought this too, until Hall illustrated just how often we break little promises to ourselves: “I’m going to lose weight”; “On this project, I am going to delegate more”, “I will spend more time reading to my son”, “When I’m next in an argument, I’m going to bite my tongue and listen before I speak”, ‘I’m going to go to the gym this weekend” or “I will visit him tonight”…. Each of these is a promise. And we break promises like these all the time.

An uncomfortable truth that came up in our discussions at the Network was that most of us are not aware of our own trustworthiness or our ability to trust ourselves, even though it is crucial in all our relationships. Personally, I’ve been reflecting on the fact that all of the challenges I am working through with my coaching clients, are linked in some way to this need for self awareness – and I suspect that in many there is a strong link to trust itself.

We can reflect on Mahatma Ghandi’s famous words: ‘Be the change you wish to see in this world’. I don’t know about you, but I would love to see a more trusting and trustworthy society than the one we’ve got at the moment. And the hard work starts with me…


*Read Vanessa Hall’s book: The Truth About Trust in Business; Emerald Book Co.; 2009.

Visit: www.leighjohnson.co.za

DREAM – Developing a Relationship between Emotions And Movement

Building Resiliance through Movement

Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

What is it that makes someone recover quickly? Or what is it that encourages toughness? Research has done little to effectively pinpoint what it is that makes someone more tough or able to cope with life’s challenges better than others. But what we do know is that when the brain believes that the body is safe it has more “elasticity” to form new concepts and is more accepting of change. I find this interesting because this means that we need to make sure that we feel safe first before we even attempt to do anything new. The irony here is that anything new will initially make us feel unsafe. So how can we overcome this conundrum?

Our body is the link! When the brain believes that the body is safe… then higher functioning like mastering change or challenges will be less stressful and we can anticipate higher resilience or quicker bounce back!!

The most efficient way to convey to the brain that the body is safe is through movement! Not mental training or academic understanding but movement.

Movement engages all our senses including the internal senses namely proprioception and the vestibular system which many of us are unaware of. Without going into too much detail movement is a way for the brain to assess how things are going with us! AND movement is also the way we adjust to sensations – positive or negative.

The first interaction a newborn has with its environment is through reflexes which are movements. There is no logical understanding or thought patters at that stage. The brain simply assesses the information it receives through ALL the senses (internal and external) and responds with a movement. As we develop we start building on those reflexes and we learn how to regulate and modify them. It seems that therefore the root of feeling safe lies in our body – through movement.

Movement is not to be confused with exercise! Physical exercise is generally associated with some sort of movement but exercise as such does not necessarily translate into building resilience. (Although many might argue that trained athletes are generally more resilient, but I am not going to delve into this right now.) The movement that the brain requires is not at all related to a cardio workout, strength training, a long run or any other formal sport. It really “only” requires child’s play. Moving on all planes front/back, top/bottom, left/right, up/down and crossing the mid-line. In other words rolling, crawling, walking, marching, etc. Literally: Child’s play!

“Early developmental movement patterns” is the more scientific name for child’s play. It is universally accepted to be the foundation of healthy development. Interesting fact is that highly trained athletes might struggle with many of the most basic movements that children need to master in order to be considered school-ready! How much more likely is it then that we, the general populous, might struggle with the most basic ways to move.

As we struggle to move we become inhibited, because the brain no longer senses safety. As we are inhibited to move – our resilience drops. As our resilience drops so our self esteem drops and symptoms of anxiety, depression, aggression etc. start developing.

In short we can assist the brain to sense safety by starting to move like a baby!! As we feel safe we start moving more which builds resilience. And as we build resilience we start to feel more in control.

Reigniting the early developmental movement patters and combining them with facilitated group work assists with managing anger and aggression; coping with stress; dealing with anxiety and depression; assists with the recovery process from injury, illness or addiction – it is a tool that can be used when going through any life’s challenges to encourage a sense of safety which in turn allows resilience to grow.

For more information on our programme please call Andrea on 0723756089 or email me on info@familycounsellingcentre.co.za