“We will compensate for the damage!” The words came out of me without a second thought. I was one of the organisers of last year’s European NVC Summer Festival and a few of the children had gone berserk. An armchair was destroyed. The pool table was broken. The place looked like a mess. The manager of the conference facility was very upset and said that there was damage of 4000 €.

When I said those words, I had no idea if the other participants would back me up or not. Right then, it didn’t matter if I would have to pay the full amount myself or not. My collaboration with the staff at the facility had gone excellently throughout the organising process. They had said yes to basically all of our requests and all in all it had been a beautiful cooperation. When I promised to pay, it was about trust. Trust in myself personally, in the organisation team behind the Festival and in the European NVC community at large.

Later, while dealing with the situation in conversation with the participants, everyone was willing to contribute. When the bill came a couple of weeks later, the amount was only a fraction of what the manager had said in his upset state. The damage was covered by the money from the Festival fees. (The funny thing was that a large part of the amount was for electronic support needed because of a misuse of the equipment by the adult participants.)

The embodiment of trust

Trust is really one of the needs I experience most clearly within me. When trust is met, I find it so much easier to relate to others. There is a lightness in my body. I can let go of control and trust that tasks will be made. And vice versa, when my need for trust is not met, I notice that I get many judgments. Others are taking on responsibility or say they will do something and I “know” that it will not happen. I become suspicious and my tendency to take over the responsibility myself increases. Or I counter by letting go of my own responsibilities. It’s a very un-nice place to be.

So trust is not just about my relationship with others. It is also about the relationship with myself. If I set goals and commitments with myself, I need to honour them. Either by fulfilling them or making a conscious renegotiation with myself. Otherwise, I stop trusting myself. When I don’t have self-confidence and don’t meet my own standards, it also risks spilling over to others. If I let myself down again and again, it will be easier not to live up to agreements with others.

Judgments and vulnerability

When it comes to NVC, trust is one of the cornerstones. We share things with each other during empathy talks, role plays, workshops and various practice sessions. In order to be vulnerable, we need to experience trust. If we really want to develop and grow, we need to be honest with our thoughts and our judgments. We need to be able to hold a space together where we accept our dark, weak and ugly sides. We need to be able to both contribute and receive trust if we are to be able to do this work together.

Building trust

If we want to build trust in others, we can not just start from ourselves or the cultural context we have grown up in. I think we need to adapt to others without giving up on ourselves. In some cultures, for example, it is very important to keep time. In others, it is more important to let relationships and interactions take time, regardless of whether it exceeds a certain meeting time or not. Building trust doesn’t look the same in these different scenarios.

A good way to increase your confidence is to set and keep agreements with yourself. If you notice that you are breaking your own agreements over and over again, set smaller goals. When you are able to achieve your goals, you slowly increase them and make sure to keep them. Don’t promise more than you can keep and keep what you promise.

Do the same with others. Do not promise things based on a perfect scenario. Assume that something will not go as you plan. Rather promise a little less and surprise others by delivering a little more, whether it is arriving in time, with practical help or to contribute with your empathy.

When do you experience trust in others?

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