To Trust or Not to Trust – Is That Really the Question?


Just this morning, I met with a new group of students for the first time.03850008

Over the years, I have encountered many, many classes for the first time, sometimes as many as 12 new groups of students in a year.  While there are many important things to cover on the first day of class, I have come to believe one of the most important things is to build rapport and begin establishing trust with the students.


A Matter of Trust

Trust is the foundation of any human interaction.  Some say today we are experiencing a decline in trust, but I think that Baroness Onora O’Neill rightly states that we are really facing a decline in trustworthiness.

Baroness O’Neill says that to rebuild trustworthiness, we have to show ourselves as competent, honest, and reliable.

One of the way I establish rapport with a new group of students is by highlighting my relevant experience (competence); opening up to their questions, even personal ones (honesty); and following through on what I say I will do, including ending the class on time (reliability).  By doing this, I quickly begin establishing a tenuous trust that will be reinforced in the weeks ahead through  a consistency of competence, honesty, and reliability.

No matter how trustworthy you consider yourself, there are always areas that need improvement.  Which area have you focused on, perhaps to the exclusion of others?  In which area do you need to spend more time and energy?  What can you do today to strengthen – or reestablish – your trustworthiness?

Barriers to Connected Influence in a Connected World


Sherry Turkle explores the impact of technology use on society.  She speaks about “connection” as being friends or followers on social media and makes a point that we are now missing that deeper connection to each other in real time.

Dr. Turkle makes a couple of points relevant to our discussion of connected influence.

One of the reasons Dr. Turkle gives for our constant need for social media is the feeling we are not listened to.

That feeling that no one is listening to me is very important in our relationships with technology. That’s why it’s so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed —so many automatic listeners. 

This highlights the importance, the extreme need for people to start practicing connective listening, at least momentarily setting aside the need to be heard and meeting someone else’s need to be understood.  

Another element of the situation is our deep aversion to quiet and solitude.  I, too, am prone to reach for my phone, check Facebook or Twitter, whenever I have a few minutes of down time.

Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And so people try to solve it by connecting. But here, connection is more like a symptom than a cure.”  

Remember, she is talking about the superficial connections we have on social media, not the deep interpersonal connections possible when we listen and understand each other’s stories.

In my opinion, social media “connections” often serve as counterfeits to real connection.  She says, “Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments.”

I would like to leave you with one final thought from Dr. Turkle’s TED Talk:

Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves.

I challenge you today to stop short-changing yourself and your relationships with the people around you.  Turn off your phones and be fully present for the important moments of your life.


Previous Posts on the Connected Influence Model

Conflict and Non-Zero-Sum Dynamics


Every relationship will experience conflict in some measure.  However, the most complex conflicts involve groups and communities.  According to Robert Wright, interdisciplinary writer and journalist, “all the salvation of the world requires is the intelligent pursuit of self-interests in a disciplined and careful way.”

How can we accomplish this?  Robert Wright has some ideas.



Conflict Resolution: The Third Side


I am starting a series on a topic that impacts every relationship – conflict resolution.

In this TED Talk, William Ury shares from his experiences as a conflict mediator and presents his approach to resolving some of the most difficult conflicts in our world.

I may not fully agree when he says that Abraham represents hospitality, but I do agree that when we focus on those things that unite us rather than those things that divide us, conflict resolution becomes much more possible.

In the weeks ahead, I will explore the five conflict handling styles described by Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, which are:

  • competitive – I must win this argument
  • avoiding – I’d rather not deal with this
  • accommodating – You can have it your way
  • collaborative – Let’s see if we can find a creative solution
  • compromising – Let’s meet in the middle

Lollipop Moments


Drew Dudley, a leadership educator in Toronto, shares a story that changed his definition of leadership.

It is so easy to discount the small, everyday actions that can have a large impact, but that is the essence of building connections with people.

What “lollipop moments” have you experienced recently?

Building Trust: The Role of Biology


Dr. Paul Zak researches the effect of oxytocin, sometimes referred to as “the bonding hormone,” in the realm of general human interactions.  His research indicates that oxytocin may have a strong impact on our ability to develop trust with each other.  In this TED Talk, he makes a very technical subject very easy to understand as he describes his research.

In his talk, he says, “We don’t need God or government telling us what to do. It’s all inside of us.”  I  have actually come to a different conclusion; I am amazed at God’s design, how He has hardwired us for connection and community.  

Who do you need to connect with today?  How can you use this information about oxytocin and how important it is to help you connect better with those around you?

Embracing “Otherness”: Owning Our National Story


President Obama made some interesting comments at the National Prayer Breakfast not too long ago, comments that unleashed a flood of criticism and defense.  As I read some of the responses, I couldn’t help feeling like we were all missing the point.



Before I go on, let me go on record as saying:

  • ISIS is bad.  Very bad.  Extremely bad.
  • The Crusades and the Inquisition were bad.  Very bad.  Extremely bad.
  • Jim Crow laws, and any justification for slavery (past or present) is bad.  Very bad.  Extremely bad.

From the perspective of the victims, all forms of injustice are equally bad.

As I read one response that talked about the Jim Crow South, and even further back to the founding philosophy of the Confederacy as a “Christian slave nation,” my first response was to dismiss any Biblical defense as a distortion of Biblical truth (which I do believe to be the case).  However, I have come to believe that to dismiss the experiences of so many within our own nation just because I didn’t take part in the experience or condone it is to give in to a sense of shame.

While it might not be obviously connected, I found a recent story on the AP US History test to be related.  Since I graduated from high school (many years ago), there has been a move to teach a broader view of US history.  I think this is a good thing.  However, it seems that there are some who want to emphasize the terrible things the US has done while others want to emphasize only the positive things.  I believe both views are skewed, and I am beginning to see how both reactions could be rooted in shame – a national shame.

In her TED Talk, Dr. Brene Brown emphasizes the negative impact of shame on interpersonal relationships, not only at the one-on-one level but also at the group and community level.  She says that “you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege. And when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame.”  I know this is true for me; when I read the accounts of what happened under slavery in the US or under Jim Crow laws in the South, I automatically want to distance myself from it.

When we dismiss the narratives we don’t like, we embrace shame and reject vulnerability.  This is the opposite of what is necessary to truly find a solution to the divisions, racial or political, we still see in the US.

1003173_13701993To understand national shame, we need to first look at responses to personal shame. One such method is called the Viking or Victim shield by Dr. Brown.  At a personal level, people are seen as either a Viking (exerting control and power to avoid being victimized) or a victim (always at risk of being taken advantage of).

From this perspective, those who want to dismiss President Obama’s remarks as exaggeration are buying into the Viking mentality, while those who want to run with all the negative implications are running with a Victim mentality.  Likewise,those who want to emphasize only the positive aspects of US history are embracing a Viking mentality, while those who want to emphasize only the negative aspects are embracing a Victim mentality.

Neither approach is an accurate reflection of reality!  In order to move forward, we have to stop reacting to shame and start embracing vulnerability to the point that we can start having healing conversations.

In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown writes, “Fear and scarcity fuel the Viking-or-Victim approach and part of reintegrating vulnerability means examining shame triggers; what’s fueling the win-or-lose fear?”  When our first reaction is to either dismiss the event as irrelevant  or to throw an event into someone else’s face, we have identified a shame trigger.

The next step is to cultivate trust.  It seems to me that our nation is facing a crisis of trust (but more on that in a later post).

Owning our story begins at a personal level, but it can not stay there; we have to own our national story – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown writes, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. … If we speak shame, it begins to wither.”  By sharing and embracing our individual stories, perhaps we will be able to find a path forward – together.


Links and Resources:

Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Listening to Shame

Article on AP US History

Obama National Prayer Breakfast 2015 Text Transcript and Full Video

44 Bible verses on shame

34 Bible verses on vulnerability

70 Bible verses on reconciliation

Diversity: A Call to be “Color Brave”


Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, boldly talks about an issue most would rather not confront.  However, in a racially and culturally diverse nation as the United States, this is a conversation we need to have.


Come back on Friday to hear about some of my personal experience with diversity.  In the meantime, check out my previous posts on diversity:

The Value of Diversity

A Response to the Events in Ferguson, Missouri



How “Gritty” Are You?


Angela Lee Duckworth shares some of the findings of her research on “grit” in this TED talk.

I love her definition of grit:

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

How often do we expect pursuing our dreams and goals to be easy, only to give up at the first sign of an obstacle?  What do we need to do to develop our own “grit”?