The Trust Hangout: An experiment in hosting deeper conversations pt1

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Written by Christine Locher on 30 November 2020 in Features
Features

Christine Locher introduces us to a recent hangout discussion on trust that featured three diverse and interesting guests.

There is healing in the spaces we build, how we hold these spaces, and in the conversations we invite to them - if we do it right. That is an unsung part of what learning does or could do, and with our current reality, the way we shape this can make a big difference.

Reality is deeply fractured - politics, society, challenges of all sizes with often timid solutions that look proactive, involve slides and fix nothing. No matter how much the fractures keep hurting, we never seem to want to hold still enough to hold all the splinters side by side, allow them to tentatively re-form bonds, slowly stabilizing in a safe holding environment.

Mike Shaw and I run L&D hangouts together, a gloriously free-form gathering of L&D and OD professionals, and the topic we wanted to explore was 'trust'. The easy route for a virtual format would have been to pick someone from leadership or psychology, and have them talk about trust, with questions at the end.

We have all been on these sessions, probably too many of them, heady sugar-rushes that still leave you hungry two hours later. We decided to do something different instead.

Trust cannot thrive in environments of negativity, hostility and doubt, but it can exist in a safe space where constructive criticism is given respectfully with the end goal of improvement.

Trust is such a deeply human, fragile thing that we felt it warranted a much bigger set of arms to hold it as we explore together. So we invited three guests: Rabbi René Pferzel from Kingston Liberal Synagogue to talk about the soul, Natalie Ann Holborow, a published poet, to talk about trust in the artistic process, and Jilly Julian, who is running for office in local politics, to talk about trust and community.

We asked each to consider the following questions:

  • What is trust?
  • Why is it important?
  • What destroys trust?
  • How can we rebuild it?

Here are the written summaries they shared after the session to give you a taste of what we started our exploration with:

Natalie Ann Holborow, poet

Trust is both our driving force and our safety net. There’s gravity to it; a firm assurance that a particular action will result in a certain outcome.

When I ask others whether they deem themselves ‘creative’, a lot of people will bristle and dismiss their activities as just ‘messing about’. Notice that this is a far cry from the child who will turn, covered in paint, to proudly present a messy piece of paper soaked with colours and lines.

There is a corrosive mentality ingrained in our educational system that’s designed to tell us that if we do not excel at certain subjects, we are failures. If we do not achieve the right grades in the core subjects of maths, science and English, then we’re led to believe we are not academic.

If we consistently receive low marks in art or music exams, then we are deemed not artistic. Embarrassed by these ‘failures’, we continue to avoid these pursuits as adults. The textbooks are eventually consigned to a dusty box in the attic and sketchpads thrown into the bin, never to be replaced.

 

It’s no surprise then, that when asked to state whether they think they are creative or not, people are quick to bristle and dismiss any creative output to 'a bit of silly doodling' or 'just messing about'.

By allowing ourselves to once again trust in that creative process and overcome that fear of failure, we give ourselves the freedom to experiment with concepts, explore perspectives, and produce original ideas.

Remember, we were all children once, each of us with a limitless imagination. We stopped trusting the process because of the doubts of others – whether that was the parent who told you to study a respectable subject, or a teacher who assigned you a low grade.

Think of a meeting where you’ve had an idea but not spoken up. Why was that? Was it ridicule that you feared? In my writing, I depend on close connections with whom I can share my work in a safe space. I trust that they can be honest with me on what works and what doesn’t.

Remember, you can be honest and kind at the same time. Trust cannot thrive in environments of negativity, hostility and doubt, but it can exist in a safe space where constructive criticism is given respectfully with the end goal of improvement.

Perhaps some of the problem is that we too often throw around the term ‘genius’. The creative process requires the playfulness and openness that we had as children. Sitting down to a blank page with the weight of expecting ‘genius’ stifles us before we even begin. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to surrender to the process.

Remember this valuable piece of advice from Vincent Van Gogh to remember when hindered by self-doubt: “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

I’d recommend that you trust him.

Part two of this three-part piece will be published later this week.

 

About the author

Christine Locher is a learning consultant with NIIT Services

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