What do trust, trees… and kittens have in common?

One of my favourite pastimes is making new fragile objects from nature and recycled material and adorning them with something precious. As I am handling gold leaves or tiny wood twigs, I need to be patient, delicate and remember to keep breathing through the act… to keep a steady hand whilst not suffocating. That reminds me of the trust we thrive to put in one another when we are thinking together, listening, co-creating, encouraging, appreciating. Each word, each pause, each assumption, each question counts.

On Linkedin, Andrew Jardine wrote in a comment:

“Trust is like a ball of wool. It often takes years to roll up into something practical and usable, meaningful. Just one mindless (or devious) act is like dropping that ball on the floor. As it bounces and unravels, a bunch of kittens magically appear and pull it to pieces. The question you are then left with is, should I bother picking this up or put it in the bin?

(And of course, where the hell did all the kittens come from, and can I keep them? Just one?)

Trust might be a volatile currency but it implies a firmness within…

Did you know that trust and confidence come from the same word?

(I have left you the etymology at the bottom of the article if you have the bandwidth),

Short story: The words “confidence”, “faith”, “comfort”, “trust”, and yes, “tree”, via their germanic radical, all come from dreu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast”.

Young shoot of a tree, surrounded by moss- - pic by Matthew Smith on unsplash - rfflri94rs8


Like confidence, trust will come up in you and around you in multiple layers or “credits”, each pertaining to diverse topics, with various degrees and intensity. We first have to accept that our total of confidence and trust “credits” constitute a very volatile currency, growing and decreasing even within one day. But when they are in your personal kitty, your life expands!

In 20 years working with women in social enterprises, I have witnessed many of my partners and clients defining themselves as someone lacking confidence. But through dialogue, we could rapidly establish that this was an assumption that was probably true in *some domains* but certainly not all, and could not define who they were as human beings.

I trust my ability to find joy, I don’t always trust my response to statements from people at the opposite end of my political spectrum. I notice I can trust a lot when I love. When my learning expands, suddenly I don’t trust I can deliver fully, when knowing less, previously, I trusted I could! Equally, growing up, I didn’t feel confident I could reach my goals. In fact, I had stale goals.

When I was 12, my French/Latin teacher said to me once: “Servane, you have no ambition”!

For her sake, her abrupt comment came in response to my announcement that I’d rather drop my dream to be a journalist and become a fashion stylist instead. (This didn’t last long but that’s another story). Her remark – given to me without context – stuck with me and indeed destroyed a few of my trust credits for a number of years.

What I learned from that, is that it’s worth coming back to a story we tell ourselves, looking at the context, understanding the person who is talking, how they say something and to what purpose; and distinguishing facts from perception. Drilling through the perception, sitting in the discomfort and looking at what was serving us then and what doesn’t serve us now.

Here’s one of the many ways you can do that…

You have to operate at three different levels simultaneously:

  1. Manage this Trust within. Expanding your inner “tree” by establishing a contract with yourself. Again, the etymology note below will tell you about the link between trust and tree, think about standing firmly on solid ground, like a tree, gaining in strength through your roots, trunk and branches, protecting yourself, messaging and embracing external resources that help you grow (through the branches, leaves, sap, seeds and scents).
  2. Manage the trust you put in others and create the conditions to accomplish this. To do so, you need to dismantle assumptions that are on your way, liberating yourself from perceptions that just don’t contribute to your expansion. Ultimately, the trust you put in others is a contract between you and yourself alone… Depending on the level of past bruises, comfort or discovery, it is your decision to pick up the balls of wool the kittens played with… or not, as Andrew Jardine put it above.
  3. Finally, as a leader, you build a space where you help others convey trust for others, with each other. A space that tells them they matter.

As our political, social, civic and economic understanding of the world always evolves, how do you expect your levels of trust will change in the coming months, in the next 10 years…?

How will you stand as firm and nimble as a tree? How will that serve you?

How will you prepare yourself for the litter of kittens that will come to play and create havoc…?

NOTE For the etymologists among you

Trust – c. 1200, “reliance on the veracity, integrity, or other virtues of someone or something; religious faith,” from Old Norse traust “help, confidence, protection, support,” from Proto-Germanic abstract noun *traustam (source also of Old Frisian trast, Dutch troost “comfort, consolation,” Old High German trost “trust, fidelity,” German Trost “comfort, consolation,” Gothic trausti “agreement, alliance”), from Proto-Germanic *treuwaz, source of Old English treowian “to believe, trust,” and treowe “faithful, trusty,” from PIE root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast.”

From c. 1300 as “reliability, trustworthiness; trustiness, fidelity, faithfulness;” from late 14c. as “confident expectation” and “that on which one relies.”

Also *dreu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast,” with specialized senses “wood,” “tree” and derivatives referring to objects made of wood.

I will continue to explore this topic of trust throughout 2022 and am planning some exciting participatory activities for our Conscious Innovation community.

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