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ESE502 : The Class : Structure : Level of Trust

Level of Trust

Trust Building

Trust refers to feeling in control of self as well as feeling safe, understood, valued and protected in sharing self, contributing ideas and reaching out to others. Building trust begins with explaining areas of comfort and restraint and irritation.

Directions: Completes this sheet and then discusses needs, defenses and communication style with someone in a chat room or conference center.

I like communications to be:

  1. delivered in private
  2. never in front of others
  3. positive only
  4. honest
  5. sensivitives
  6. direct
  1. respectful
  2. as soon as possible
  3. end of the day
  4. non personal
  5. blunt
  6. gentle
  1. open
  2. kept just between us
  3. constructive
  4. productive
  5. over a cup of coffee
  6. straight to the point

I get defensive when

Donít tell me about:

I show my anger by:

I show uncertainty by:

My best group role is:

I am really good at showcasing:


There are several levels of trust, and trust refers to feeling in control of self as well as feeling safe, understood, valued and protected in sharing self, contributing ideas and reaching out to others.

Indicators of low trust levels

  • participants are unwilling to initiate work
  • unwilling to contribute when they are called on for reactions
  • keep negative feelings to themselves or share indirectly
  • take refuge in long-winded story-telling
  • hide behind intellectualization
  • deliberately vague and focus endlessly on others instead of self
  • excessively quiet
  • put energy into helping others instead of sharing personal concerns
  • maintain there are no problems
  • unwillingness to deal openly with conflict, yet feeling judgmental
  • excessive degree of group pressure to achieve conformity to "norm"
  • feeling ambivalent about what they want from the group
  • testing both the leader and other members to determine the safety level of the group

When these indicators occur in the actions of one member or are evident in group dynamics, members can build a sense of safety by focusing on individual needs and issues as well as the importance of enhancing the cohesiveness of the unit.

  • deciding each is willing to invest in a group experience
  • becoming aware of and owning some feelings of which they were previously only dimly aware
  • observing personal behavior to enhance the congruence between saying and doing
  • becoming more attuned to conflict that might be brewing within the group
  • learning to effectively share what each feels and thinks about the group -- allowing time and a forum

Fear often slows or halts the group building process. It may help to discuss them as a part of group and offer assurances that members are valued and their fears and needs can be shared and honored.

  • I'm afraid you won't like me
  • I'm afraid to look at what I'm really like inside
  • We seem stuck in the group
  • I can't identify with anyone here
  • No one will like me once they know what Iím really like
  • Here's someone here I may not like
  • I can't see why we have to share our feelings
  • I don't feel safe in here
  • Nobody can understand me
  • Once I get angry, I won't be able to get myself back under control

Building Trust through Understanding

  • Listen actively, reflectively and empathically.
  • Maintain eye contact - if culturally appropriate.
  • Use body language to express interest and to provide cultural comfort.
  • Validate the speakerís viewpoint and beliefs.
  • Express honest feelings in kindness.
  • Focus on issues of mutual concern.
  • Be alert to
belief system
level of concern
cultural sense
cognitive style
modality preference
emotional context

Once you have finished, you should:

Go on to Incentives
Go back to Readings

E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at


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