This word is simultaneously specific and vague to us all. We know what it means. We all know how it feels. But can we define it?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary references five different definitions but the first one listed is the most transferable:
1a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
b : one in which confidence is placed
Reflecting on this, I realized that although I would have a difficult time trying to sum up all the behaviors or characteristics that encompass ‘trust’, I would try to come up with an acronym (as any SApro would do) to refocus my efforts in building trust in the simplest of ways.
Trust is something we all depend on in our work in Student Affairs. We need to trust our supervisors to have the big picture in mind when establishing new initiatives. We need to trust our coworkers and peers to support one another and achieve a common goal. We also need to trust our students to accomplish their own goals, and to ultimately trust us. Without mutual trust there is no growth. Without growth there is no learning. Without learning…well…we’d all be out of a job.
So to simplify our trust building efforts, there are four aspects that I narrowed down to help us stay afloat.
It’s a raft to help us survive the building of trust.
These four components of everyone’s “trust raft” may seem simple, but can often be overlooked in our busy days.
Respect. It seems like such a basic and simple concept. Of course we respect those we trust! But are we showing it? Maybe not. Are we open to people’s comments and suggestions? Do we acknowledge a new person’s ideas before assuming they can’t do something because it would be “quicker” to show them how it’s done? Everyone brings new experiences and skill sets to the table. The only way we’ll see it is if we give people the space to shine.
Attention– This is where the non-verbals are really important. Have you ever been sitting in a meeting with a student and you have your computer monitor on or your phone out and you glance at it when an email comes in? It may seem minute. It may seem in consequential. But that can quickly damage trust. Questions of “why am I wasting my time if they’re not committed to this meeting” or, “am I important enough to be listened to?” can be running through the minds of students, employees, and coworkers alike. Be committed to where you are. We talk about wanting to be mindful. This is a great way to start. Be present in meetings. Do you need to be on your phone? Set those parameters when a meeting starts so your counterpart understands. Context is everything. The explanation shows you care about their time.
Friendliness– In Residence Life, training sessions to student leaders are presented about the differences between being a “friend” and being “friendly”. While the distinction is important, the reason for needing the friendly demeanor remains the same. The old saying of, “you catch more bees with honey than vinegar” speaks to the necessity to show kindness and positivity when building relationships. We all don’t need a new best friend. If we did we would all need more articles and research on how to create a better “work-life balance”. What we need is a positive person that we can go to with questions. A person we can trust. Being open to conversation, honest with feedback, and understanding will make you that much more approachable. Easier on some days but the importance of it lingers throughout the year.
Time– Simply put, you need to give people time to trust you. This is the rope that ties that raft together. If we continue to be mindful of the former three points, over time the trust will be there. Whether in relationships or working partnerships, time is needed to build a strong team.
So while we float trying to survive the ocean of meetings, trainings, and new beginnings that the new school year will bring, remember to get on your raft and focus on building that trust in your team.