The 7 Elements Of Trust & How They Influence Relationships, According To Brené Brown
Trust is a foundational aspect of any healthy relationship, but what does it actually mean? It's defined as the "firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something" in the Oxford dictionary," but beyond that, how much do we actually know about creating trust in our relationships?
In a recent lecture by renowned researcher and speaker Brené Brown for Oprah's Super Soul sessions, Brown digs into the fundamentals of trust based on research, identifying seven key components that can be remembered with the acronym "BRAVING." Here's what she found.
First up, trust starts with having clear and honest boundaries, according to Brown. "I trust you if you are clear about your boundaries and you hold them. And you're clear about my boundaries, and you respect them," she explains. "There is no trust without boundaries."
The next element of trust is reliability. According to Brown, reliability means doing what you say you're going to do, not once but every time. "You do what you say you're going to do over and over and over again. You cannot gain and earn my trust if you're reliable once because that's not the definition of reliability," she says. She adds that a big part of this is also making sure we're clear on our limitations so we don't take on too much and end up falling short on commitments.
A is for accountability. Brown explains that accountability comes down to your ability to own up to your mistakes and apologize for them, which promotes trust between people. And to take it further, in relationships, she adds, "I can only trust you if when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, apologize, and make amends."
What's said in the vault stays in the vault, and that's a foundation of trust. Not only do we want people to keep private the things we tell them in confidence, but Brown notes that we're also acutely aware when we witness someone break another person's trust by talking about their secrets. "Here's where we lose trust with people," she says. "So the vault is not just about the fact that you hold my confidences. It's that, in our relationship, I see that you acknowledge confidentiality."
Integrity can seem like a vague term, Brown points out, so she came up with her own three-part definition. "It's choosing courage over comfort; choosing what's right over what's fun, fast, or easy; and practicing your values, not just professing your values," she says.
N stands for nonjudgment, which Brown explains as being able to ask for help or be in struggle without being judged by the other person. And vice versa, they can expect the same thing from you. She notes that this can be challenging because we're better at helping than we are at asking for help. "We think we've set up trusting relationships with people who really trust us because we're always there to help them. But let me tell you this: If you can't ask for help, and they cannot reciprocate that—that is not a trusting relationship," she explains.
And last but not least, we have G for generosity. Everybody is going to make mistakes, including the people you trust. When someone does make a mistake, however, trust—and namely generosity—comes into play. "So if I screw up, you will make a generous assumption and check it out," Brown says.
For example, rather than blowing up at someone when they upset you, you could say, "Hey, this has been on my mind, but I know you care about me and wouldn't mean to hurt my feelings" and approach the conflict from there, from a place of generosity (and trust and understanding).
The bottom line.
Brown closes out the talk by explaining that when we can break trust down into more tangible parts and ask for what we need very specifically, we can better build trust. And for what it's worth, she adds, all of these factors apply to self-trust, too, which is arguably the foundation for your trust with others.
So whether self-trust or trusting others is something you struggle with, consider these seven factors when approaching those conversations. The more you can look at what's really going on when it comes to trust, the more you'll be able to cultivate it within yourself and your relationships.
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Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.