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The Power of Trust

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By Jonathan Milne, Managing Director of The Learning Connexion

Fifth in the TLC Super Powers series

Creativity depends on trust. The first step is to develop genuine trust in yourself.

It may sound weird – if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? The good news is that we can learn to trust by unlearning the things that got in the way. These could be some (or many) of:

Fear of rejection;
Being ‘wrong’;
Denying any ‘ability’;
A need for ‘certainty’;
False preconceptions;
Conditioned to follow instructions.

When new students arrive at TLC they jump into trust on their first day. They do some simple art exercises and share the results with all the others in the group. It’s an easy and positive experience.

Part of the secret is that everyone quickly learns to focus on what ‘works’. Something that looks messy might contain good observation, empathy and energy. The act of participation might itself be a big achievement. 

Notice the word ‘quickly’. The awareness of trust can be very quick. The slow part is undoing the habits that may have taken a lifetime to build. We are certainly capable of deep change.

Going back to the classroom setting, trust works in all directions. Students trust themselves and each other. Tutors trust students and students trust tutors. It aligns with the concept of ‘ako’:

 ‘… a teaching and learning relationship, where the educator is also learning from the student and where educators’ practices are informed by the latest research and are both deliberate and reflective. Ako is grounded in the principle of reciprocity; and recognises that the learner and whānau cannot be separated.’ The concept of ako / Aspects of planning / Teaching and learning te reo Māori / Curriculum guidelines / Home - Te reo Māori (tki.org.nz)

TLC tutors model the next dimension of trust: self and other. For example, they trust students to opt-out of any exercise that they don’t want to do. In this respect we are different from families and schools that train people to be compliant rather than creative.

Trust extends from personal to universal.  Our broad categories are ‘self’, ‘self and other’, ‘self-and-community’ and ‘self-and-world’ (more about these on another day).

In our personal creative context, we have to be trustworthy.  If we want to engage with the wider community, we have to build trust on a bigger scale.

So how do we build trust? For my part I’m staying with the TLC School Agreement – especially item 5: Focus on what works. Ask for what you want. Use your energy constructively. Avoid blame and justification. It’s a matter of demonstrating trust rather than criticising those who don’t have it.

There aren’t shortcuts – trust develops slowly and has to be resilient because things occasionally go wrong. The resilience matters as much as trust itself. If we find ways to forgive then trust becomes more sustainable.

Are there any systemic causes of distrust? Yes. Mostly the causes are built on false beliefs, lies or psychological dysfunction. We need to learn how to manage when we are faced with irrational obstacles. 

Democracy depends on trust although oppositional politics sometimes take us from facts into fantasy.  

How can you strengthen your ability to trust yourself? Practice, practice, practice. It starts small. Think of something you’d like to do but you believe that it’s beyond you.

The intention is to trust yourself to make progress on something that you’d like to achieve but you’ve avoided getting started.  

Here’s a set of tactics that can apply to any item on the list.  

  1. Experiment. This might involve working with someone else (and /or checking anything relevant on the web).
  2. Take a risk or two and see if you get a promising result.
  3. Treat any positive outcome, no matter how small, as a success.
  4. Keep practising what you did for the positive outcome until it becomes a habit.
  5. Return to experimentation and find something new that adds to your ‘success list’.
  6. Repeat.
  7. If you hit a patch of doubt, pause and shift your focus to something relaxing (or a mundane task that you know you do well).
  8. Notice when you reach the stage when you can trust a new skill without having to think about it.

Some possible areas for skill development

All of these are ‘useful’ and they involve a range of particular skills that may initially seem out of reach. There are hidden dimensions too. A chef has to have a good sense of timing, familiarity with tools and a knack for presentation that is really an art. Throughout the process several things are happening at once and it takes time to build all the skills and bring them together.  

Writing short stories
Gardening (including container gardening – food and flowers)
Making bread
Playing a musical instrument
Stand-up comedy (in a mirror!)
Public speaking (on a recorder to begin with)
Researching areas of interest
Saving money

Other links: 
Trusting Yourself: 6 Tips to Build It (healthline.com)
13 Habits of Self-Love Every Woman Should Adopt (healthline.com) (relevant to men as well!)


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