Inpowering People 2024: The Dynamics of Distrust

harmony inpowering people resources inpoweru trust Dec 29, 2023
The Dynamics of Distrust

“When you first brought this up, I thought you were off base and missing the real issues. My business partners and I have known each other since high school and have impeccable trust in one another. But going through this process, I realize there definitely are some triggers of distrust at play here I have been impervious to.”

Over the past few months, I have heard similar statements from several coaching clients, team leaders, and have been processing this myself in personal relationships. What has elicited those remarks and experiences? A concept that is changing how we define and build trust with others.   

In his book Trust Me, Discovering Trust in a Culture of Distrust, Joseph Myers has blown my mind by showing how Trust and Distrust are not opposite ends of a relational spectrum but are separate entities. Using the latest research in neuroscience, Myers points out that distrust originates in the brain’s amygdala where our primal fight, flight or freeze survival instincts originate. Its sole purpose is to protect and preserve us by guiding us to safety, be it physically, emotionally, or mentally.

This is different and separate from the building of trust, which originates in the prefrontal cortex, where functions like problem-solving and the ability to socialize reside. As Myers puts it, “distrust’s sole purpose is to guide us to safety, while trust’s goal is to build relational capital.” So sometimes the question we must ask ourselves is not how to build more trust, but first, how do we lower distrust.

I’ve seen this amygdala dynamic over the past two years in my two grandchildren. Our granddaughter is 6 weeks older and much bigger and more aggressive than our grandson. She has inflicted enough pain on her cousin that when she approaches him in a certain way, he sticks out his hand and says “No! Go away!” His little amygdala is averting what has brought a bump or bruise in the past. As we have coached our granddaughter to approach her cousin gently and ask first if she can hug him, he will gladly reciprocate. By changing her behavior, she is not setting off his fight or flight reaction and is opening the door to build trust in the form of a gentle hug.

As Myers says, “Simply put, we decide to trust, and we feel distrust.” So when we talk about building “vulnerability based trust” it may not be an issue of going deeper relationally at Happy Hour. It may be more about redirecting our amygdala or distrust impulse from a reactive junkyard watch dog mentality to a well-trained responsive guide dog. It’s hard to be vulnerable if you are constantly putting up your mental and emotional deflector shields.

Want to go deeper in lowering your distrust to build trust with your family and friends, co-workers and colleagues, and yes even your enemies or nemesis? Click this link and make Trust Me the first book you read in 2024. Or reach out for an Inpowered Teams and Trust workshop at [email protected]. Until then here is wishing you have a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!