On Sunday I found one of my slippers upstairs on the newly adopted dog’s bed. “Ohmi! No!” I said as she followed me into the hall. “Don’t take my slipper!” Instead of continuing directly down the stairs, she turned with a suspicious look just as I tossed the slipper. It hit her lightly on her back. She flinched and ran away, out the doggie door.
For a while I didn’t notice that she had made herself scarce. I called for her. No Ohmi. I went outside to the dog yard. She wouldn’t come close, her tail between her legs. For about a day and half Ohmi regressed to the scared and skittish dog from her first days with us. Finally on Tuesday I was able to sit on the couch and pet her.
What does all this have to do with conflict? Trust. In our relationships with others we are always either making deposits into or subtracting from the reservoir of trust. We humans aren’t so different from our canine cousins in that regard. My months with Ohmi had contributed drop by drop to the trust reservoir. Yet one incident when I raised my voice and inadvertently harmed her, slight though it was, had taken us many steps backward.
Lack of trust is pretty often the situation when a human conflict has become unmanageable. In our work we see this often. Lack of trust leads to conflict and the consequent negative assumptions.
In each of these cases, if there ever was a reservoir of trust built, it has been dramatically depleted. The actions may have been inadvertent, misunderstood, or unplanned. Like my toss of the slipper at the wrong moment, the reaction on the part of the other person––or dog––was to think the worst.
Building Trust and Undoing Assumptions
At just about any stage in a conflict, trust can be rebuilt. Slowly. Carefully. Intentionally. You do not have to approve of everything about the other person to work to build trust. Here’s six ways toward raising the level in the trust reservoir.
Great news. Trust can be rebuilt. With intentional actions and patience, you can build trust with others. Here’s how it sounds from a recent divorce case with a couple who had a full reservoir of trust created over many years: “I totally trust her, she always included me in her business. If she says its worth [. . .], I believe her. You can write down the figure she gave you, I don’t need to question it.”
My mistakes led to a momentary depletion of trust with my rescue dog. Over the coming years I hope to keep showing her that she can trust me. It is a daily practice of step-by-step learning about her needs and fears while showing by my actions that I can be trusted. Sometime down the road I may toss another slipper. I hope on that day Ohmi will think, Oh, that must not have been meant for me. My human can be trusted.
Read an article about building trust with more tips here: Trust article
Watch a video about trust: Trust video
Workplace erosion of trust by workplace jerks & bullies: Civilized Workplace
The message for divorcing couples is clear. If your divorce agreement will include provision for the payment of alimony, deductible to the paying spouse and taxable, as income, to the...By Dr. Lynne C. Halem