5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Building Trust

If you have difficulty trusting others, you are not alone.  And, it might have more to do with a struggle to trust yourself.

Take a moment and think about why you trust someone else.  Did it happen over night?  Did it happen in response to one interaction?  Do you have faith in their abilities?  Do you feel that they care about you?  Do you feel they were being authentic with you?

Trust can be risky!  Trust is required for a healthy relationship and before we can have a healthy relationship with another, we must work on having a healthy relationship with ourselves.  If I were to ask you to remember a time when someone broke your trust, I imagine that most of us can quickly remember a time.  But if I were to ask you to remember a time when you broke your own trust, would it be so easy to recall?

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, trust has three core drivers:  authenticity, logic and empathy.  Therefore, trusting ourselves requires us to connect to our authentic selves, have compassion for ourselves, and align our choices with what we know to be true for ourselves.  Unfortunately, many of us struggle in this space due to the fear of being judged by others (AKA the need for approval by others) and/or the fear of disappointing others.

If you find yourself caught in this common human struggle, below are some intention-setting ideas for building trust in yourself:

  1. Accept yourself.   It is mission critical to accept all parts of ourselves, fully and unapologetically!  If you find yourself saying to yourself that there is a part, or parts of you that you hate, consider sitting with these parts and having an open dialogue.  Give those parts a voice, without judgment.  Remember, all parts of us come in service.  They adapted and adjusted to keep you safe.  Perhaps try writing down the messages that these parts continue to repeat so they know you have heard them.  Doing so creates space for you to thank them and to consider releasing them from service as they may be ready to retire!
  2. Lean on your values.  Breaking trust with ourselves is tied to our core values.  For example, if one of our core values is honesty and then we lie, we just dishonored ourselves and broke our trust with ourselves.  Therefore, if you find yourself in a dilemma or need to make a difficult choice, consider turning to your top core values and let them guide you.  Making the decision might be difficult in the moment; however, if it aligns with your core values, you will sense that alignment for much longer.  Perhaps display your top core values prominently in your home as a reminder to you as to what is most important, so they are in your awareness in those more challenging moments.
  3. Identify your strengths.  To build trust in yourself, start with what you know to be your strengths.  Consider making a list of your strengths and then build on them by doing more with them.  The key will be to honor the work, by perhaps journaling at the end of each day to recognize how you demonstrated your strengths that day.  For example, if you identified creativity as one of your strengths, write down all of the ways creativity showed up including any out-of-the-box solutions to mundane daily problems.
  4. Keep promises.  This applies to keeping promising to BOTH yourself and to others!  This requires setting strong and clear boundaries, including saying no, so others grow.  If you can’t (or don’t want to) do something, it is better to say no (even if it makes you very uncomfortable to do so) than to say yes and later break your promise.  Consistency in the outcomes (both when saying yes and saying no) is what builds (over time) a trustworthy relationship.
  5. Practice compassion.  As humans, we will make mistakes or take missteps.  However, one bad decision or broken promise does not make you a bad person.  Failures are vital to our growth and to discovering our core values and strengths.  Therefore, befriending our failures, missteps, and mistakes allows us to learn and expand instead of shrink.  Consider exercising your self compassion muscle (AKA the heart) by listening to a meditation and/or writing down what you would say to a dear friend in this space.  Then, the next time you experience a space of constriction, perhaps offering yourself those same kind words!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Expand Our Human Capacity for Empathy

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” ― Henry David Thoreau

There is a growing body of research evidence to support the benefits of empathy, including a reduction in bullying in schools, better health outcomes and fewer medical errors in health care, and improved quality of intimate, family, and work relationships.  So exactly what is empathy and how might we go about expanding this critical core component of emotional intelligence if it can change the world in such profound ways?

Empathy is our ability to sense the emotional experience of another person, our wish to understand another person’s perspective, which may be difficult when it is different from our own, and be open to allowing the understanding to guide our actions.  Thanks to the discovery of mirror neurons in our brains, neuroscientists have opened the door to viewing the human capacity for empathy as an attribute that can be exercised and strengthened just like our muscles in our body.

And with much of the efforts in the world focused on creating revolutionary change at this time, it’s not surprising that the experience may be felt as polarizing, asking each of us to deeply sense and feel our own emotions, possibly beyond our own emotionally intelligent skill set.  So setting an intention to try one of the five ideas (listed below) to expand our individual capacity for empathy for our fellow human beings around the globe may just be the spark that lights the flame that draws others to the light, where we can see more clearly that we all simply desire to be accepted as we are, appreciated for our unique gifts, and loved unconditionally as we grow:

  1. Make (and maintain) eye contact and smile.  We are social beings, yet in this ‘social media’ era, we find ourselves more connected to an electronic device than to other living, breathing beings.  It feels good to be seen and greeted with a warm smile.  Simply smiling can calm fear and anxiety not only in you, but within the people you share your smile with.  Might I suggest a simply practice that takes less than a minute and let me know what the experience is like:  Close your eyes.  Inhale deeply.  As you exhale, drop your chin to your chest.  Curl the corners of your lips into a smile, inhale your head back up and then exhale.  Before opening your eyes, check in with yourself.  Do you feel a bit lighter?
  2. Listen deeply to another without interrupting.  Everyone has a story. As I read a long time ago in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covery, “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” Challenge yourself the next time you are having a conversation with someone to notice how many times you are formulating a response before the person has finished speaking, which means you are not really listening at all.  Then, consider trying to briefly summarize what you think you heard the person say before offering your response. Recently, I asked a friend if she would be willing to answer a question that might be politically charged if I promised to not respond with my opinion at all – I just wanted to hear and understand her perspective.  She agreed and I learned a lot!
  3. Identify and challenge your own prejudices. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all harbor prejudices, even if they are not our own.  We most likely inherited them from our family or the larger societal culture we grew up in. But until we can own them and then begin to reflect on the roots of such assumptions, we block our own growth and the potential growth of the collective consciousness.  Once we own them, we can begin to challenge them by looking for what all humans have in common instead of focusing on what makes us different.
  4. Be curious. When judgment comes up, take a breath and invite in curiosity.  The more curious we are, the more we open the door to our own happiness (as research is starting to show).  Curiosity about others, particularly people we don’t know well or maybe not at all, creates a tremendous learning opportunity, one in which we might just learn something new that makes our own lives easier.  Curiosity also expands understanding and understanding expands our empathy and connection to others.
  5. Practice Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term that is typically translated to ‘non-violence’.  During my journey to becoming a yoga teacher, I was challenged to step back and observe my self-talk and notice how violent it could get.  If we were to record our thoughts about ourselves and play it out loud, you would probably be a bit shocked at how harsh we can be towards ourselves – and certainly would think we would never speak to another person that way.  So practicing Ahimsa starts with each one of us individually, checking our own unkind self-talk and actively showing ourselves more loving kindness and understanding that we too are simply a human being doing what we can to survive.  When we can demonstrate to ourselves that we are worth such kindness, hostility disappears, both within ourselves and towards others!