Value of the Week: Trust

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”. Ernest Hemingway.

People often remark, “I don’t know who I can trust?”  

As we listen to news items about Covid-19 we learn how some people cannot be trusted to follow advice about social distancing. Their anti-social behaviour is justified by them adopting an excusing mindset, as expressed in statements such as, “It’s all a plot. To take away our freedoms – I don’t trust them”.

What is trust? Trust is having confidence in the integrity (honesty) of someone. Trust helps us to form good relationships with others and to depend on them for love, advice and help. Trust is built through open, honest communication.

From my experience, if there is an absence of trust then relationships break down. This applies to marriage, friendship, a school, business or institution. Once trust is broken, doubt, fear and the absence of feeling safe destroy existing relationships. That is why I have always said in my world of education, that good schools are built on 3 things: relationships, relationships and relationships. 

It’s the same for business. The core of banking used to be service to the customer before profit. Now bank profit is often seen as the first priority. This has led to a breakdown in trust between banks and their customers.  

What can we do to build trust? First, may I invite you to take a moment to go inside yourself to check your own level of trustworthiness? Do you trust yourself? Is there an aspect of your character that you are curious about? Perhaps you sometimes observe a behaviour, which can take away your freedom to be your lovely authentic you? It is sometimes said that you will love another person as much as you love yourself. I think the same may be true of trust, if you find it difficult to trust yourself, you may find it challenging to trust others.  

So, if either or both partners in a relationship cannot trust themselves, then mistrust invades the space between them. To overcome this they need to enter a healing process and speak their truth with confidence, clarity and courage without harming the other. 

The same outcome can happen at work. I sometimes describe trust as being a super value, as it is depends on a combination of other values, such as honesty, cooperation, understanding, compassion and love to work its magic. Trust is built when time is given to talking authentically and courageously with others, so that a shared understanding can be developed.

Gandhi is reported as saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. So may I invite each of us to reflect on values such as trust? The more we reflect on them the more our ethical awareness increases, which will have a profound affect on our thinking and behaviour. What we think, say and do will be more aligned – we will walk our talk and will be trusted; our relationship with others and our self will be transformed.

Former pupils sometimes write to me having gone through this process in a values-based school, saying what a positive effect it had on them. Recently I had a wonderful email from Stephanie Giles, who wrote:

Dr Hawkes, I wanted to thank you for implementing your truly inspirational values system, thank you for making my childhood at West Kidlington Primary School so memorable and enjoyable, and thank you for teaching me values which I have held so closely since leaving 20 years ago throughout my adult life. I will be eternally grateful that I was lucky enough to be a pupil of West Kidlington when you were Headteacher and to have experienced the values education you implemented. Words simply cannot express my gratitude. Please just know that even after all this time, your work has had a truly transformational and lasting impact. It has made a real difference to my pathway in life – thank you. 

Stephanie at her graduation with her sister in 2012

I have included Stephanie’s testimony because I am convinced that the process of values-based education has a profound effect on both children and adults, having the potential to create a more harmonious society.