Trust as a prerequisite for Cooperation and collaboration – do I have a choice or not? 

I know a 14-year old boy who already at age 5 did a lot of thinking. For days he was pacing his home with a serious look on his face and he could not find peace. Finally, he said to his mother; “Now I know. There is only one thing we have to do in life – only one thing – do you know what it is?”. After some guesses his mother got to the basics; Eating? “No mom – you don´t have to eat, if you don´t eat you will die, but you don´t have to eat. Breathing? “No mom – you don´t have to breathe, if you don´t breathe you will die, but you don´t have to breathe. Finally, he said, the only thing you HAVE TO Do is TO CHOOSE. You have to choose if you eat, breathe, love, play. Pretty amazing 5-year old. And I have learned that the choices I make creates my life.

We make choices all the time also in this course. This past week the topic was Collaborative learning and the group I am in collaborated in many different ways. In order to collaborate trust among those that collaborate is a prerequisite.  I am now choosing to write about trust and especially how authenticity and empathy are linked together and many times difficult for us to understand. We may think we are “right” when we in fact are only defending our traditional way of thinking instead of opening up to new ideas.  

Trust can be defined in many ways but I choose Francis Frey´s definition from her TED-talk “how to build (and rebuild) trust”. She claims that trust is the foundation for everything we do and if we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress. In order to rebuild trust, we need an understanding of the components that it is made of and they are.

  1. Authenticity – if you sense that I am authentic you are more likely to trust me
  2. Logic – if you sense that there is real rigor in my logic you will trust me
  3. Empathy – if you feel that my empathy is directed towards you then you are far more likely to trust me.

When Authenticity, logic and empathy are present we have great trust. If any of the 3 parts wobbles, then trust is in danger. 

We know almost instantly if someone is their true self, in other words authentic. We just sense it. I have a feeling that it requires self-esteem and lack of fear to be “myself”. Francis Frey says “If you represent any kind of difference, the prescription to “be you” can be super challenging.” Is it possible to represent difference without holding back who we are?  Perhaps we are less likely to be trusted if we “play a role” and hold back who we are but what if we are who we are and we stand out as different – will we be listened to and respected? 

Francis Frey had suggestions for us to be our true selves, 

  • Wear whatever makes you feel fabulous
  • Pay less attention to what you think people want to hear from you and far more attention to what your authentic awesome self needs to say
  • To the leaders – make it safe and make it welcome make it celebrated for people to be their authentic selves. It is a key for success. 

But in our workplace, instead of celebrating diversity and authenticity, it is still much easier to train people to “fit in”. It is much easier to reward people that say something you could have said as oppose to rewarding people that would say something entirely different to what you were going to say. This is where new knowledge, new understanding can create change. When we pay attention to and celebrate difference and become curious to learn from those that we first think are totally out on a limb, “they are wrong – I know” then we will learn and broaden our perspectives and create a better world. I think that this can be done by listening to those in my classroom that I normally “disregard” and also by having a different more diversified student group – perhaps from totally different areas than the usual ones.

According to Francis Frey the most common “wobble” is empathy. Why? It sometimes has to do with time. When we are busy it is difficult to take the time that empathy requires. When I am super busy others will perceive me as self-focused. With too much to do there will be less and less time for paying attention and listening to others and with lack of empathy there will be less trust – a downward spiral. Francis Frey suggest that if I need to understand that if I don´t pay attention to some people, if I am distracted by them, I need to pay attention, look at them when they stand in front of me and listen to them deeply to try to get their perspective. I need to put away my cellphone! If I and everyone else does then we have a gamechanger. 

A less complicated wobble is logic. A logic wobble can be of 2 sorts: 1: quality or lack of support behind your logic – come better prepared!2: The ability to communicate the logic and here it is important to get to the point directly, then give supporting evidence. 

When someone is trying to use logic to reassure that they are authentic – well, that simply does not work. When we try to prove something with facts that really is an issue that has to do with intuition and trust – well that is equally bad. When I feel that a person lacks empathy towards me by being uncomfortable, perhaps afraid and defensive – then perhaps after all I do not have a choice regarding trust – I just know and even if I want to trust the person, I cannot.

Body language and expressions are more important than the spoken word when we interpret what a person says. This is a huge challenge in on line learning.  Getting to know one another is another challenge – and time is a challenge. Perhaps we create space in our calendar for our on-line course. But the breaks, the lunches the informal conversations that we have when we meet in person, they will not exist. They are an important part of creating Trust. 

So, what have I learned? Again, I have learned that what I believed to be true is not always true. Yes – when I choose I create my life, but when it comes to trusting someone – it is not a choice – either I do or I don´t. 

Publicerad av Ulrika Myhr

Teacher, innovator, physical therapist for children. Working at Learn to Move and also through external assignments. Hoping for a world where all can participate in learning and play :-)

3 reaktioner till “Collaboration-trust-choices

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections here:-) We in our PBL group have also discussed the trust and I very much share your opinion there – I do appreciate especially that you have chosen other words than we have and I have! Of course, authenticity, not playing a role is really a key issue. And yes, being stressed and too busy is not good for our empathy, can relate to that in all life parts and directions….


  2. Great reflection, Ulrika! Thank you for being so transparent! And it’s a huge topic, indeed! What seems to be like my relationship with “trusting people” is making small commitments. I mean expecting too much too soon is not working with me, so it’s all about building trust and putting trust in small steps. And for communities (teamwork), my gut feeling tells me that the more a person takes an active role in a group, the more people tend to respect and trust her/him. And for me, I must see that this person is doing it willingly, with good intentions not to feed his/her ego.


    1. Thank you for the feedback Derya, yes I see what you mean, sometimes trust can bu built step by step and a crucial thing like you say is the part about having good intentions and not being a ”I-me-myself” kind of person



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