Creating a Space of Trust

Workshop description of my APIL16 session titled Creating a Space of Trust. Made up in the spur of the moment, captured for fair use.

Announced like this:

Trust is a subjective quality of a situation. It’s messy, situational and contextual. How can we make sense of it? How can we improve it? And: what impact would that have?
Take away practical answers to these questions. Learn how to invite, to make room for real options here and now.
Olaf boldly labeled himself the Trust Artist three years ago, starting a journey of curious discovery while helping to increase trust and confidence in people and systems. Now he’s ready to share what he’s learned.
Integrating common sense, neurobiology and complexity science, experience how to work with trust. How to invite and welcome people into a trusted space, with acceptance and compassion, to make creativity possible.

Assess Trust Level

Before any other conversation, ask participants to assess their current level of trust on a scale from 1..10 and write down that number. The purpose of this is to make sense of “what does trust mean?” later. To enable that, people need to first follow their gut, use their intuition, and just write down a number. It helps if you explain that before you ask the actual question:

“Pick a piece of paper and a pen. You will write down something – something very short, one number – and you won’t need to show it to anyone. I ask you to just follow your intuition, not to overthink it – we will do the thinking later…”

Introduction – Trust is Messy

Trust is Messy

Trust is Messy

Trust Factors

Table conversation: Reflecting on the number you wrote down at the start, what are the factors influencing your level of trust? Let table groups talk for 5 min then share with the room.

Trust Factors

Trust Factors


Elicit the topic of Authenticity from the debrief of the previous exercise and give tables another 5 min for conversation:

Trust - Authenticity

Trust – Authenticity

Explain the key concept of vulnerability and how that’s a trust builder: You show up a little more vulnerable than you normally do, inviting others to do the same, which creates a step-by-step process of building more and more trust. Mention the exercise doing this later in the session.

No and Yes

Dr Dan Siegel published an exercise that demonstrates the toward/away states of the brain.

Yes and No - Towards and Away

Yes and No – Towards and Away

Debrief and explain the benefit of polarities and categorisations for our brain, compare to System I/II thinking (Kahneman).

Trust - Polarities - Integration

Trust – Polarities – Integration

Fold this back to Dan Siegel’s definition of integration:

Honour Differences and Promote Linkages.

Food for Thought

Our perception of Coherence – we seem to have a tacid, often unconscious understanding of the coherence of a situation – and its relation to our feeling of safety. Specific kinds of coherence are key to understand and build trust:

  • honesty: coherence of thinking and talking
  • integrity: coherence of talking and action – “walk the talk”

Confidence – a sense of inner safety – and how that relates to our need for external, safety enhancing structures – rules, hierarchy, policies, processes, police… I elaborated on that in an earlier post.

Authenticity and Attachment – how our drive for both can create conflicts. We want to be and show our true selves and we want to belong, succeed, be loved – or simply survive within our tribe. Trading authenticity for attachment is highly correlated with addiction. Perceiving habits of people in oppressive systems as a kind of addiction could give us more compassion when we “want them to change”. No one stops smoking because I want them to..

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