Lesson 2.14

Building Trust And Depressurizing Tense Debates

Dive into this topic by watching the video, followed by key explanations below:

Key Concepts:

  • There are two kinds of trust: Trust in people’s abilities and actions, and trust in people’s intentions.

  • The more trust you have in people’s good intentions, the easier it is to engage in cognitive friction without it getting destructive.

  • To build trust in intentions, you need to be able to see people as humans you can empathize with.

  • The best ways to do this, are to learn their stories, or to go through stories together with them.

    • Sitting down and getting to know someone’s history makes it a lot harder for you to treat them poorly when you disagree.

    • When even the most different people go through unique experiences together, they bond and become part of each other’s “in-groups.” This is why soldiers bond so strongly.

    • Watching movies or otherwise experiencing stories together has this kind of effect on people as well. That’s why going on a date to the movies actually makes sense even though it’s a parallel activity. Brain science shows us that we bond over shared experiences, even if it’s just watching them.

    • Playing together—from playful banter to board games to sports to improv comedy games—helps people feel like part of each other’s in-groups as well. (See the book Dream Teams chapter 3 if you want to really dig in on the science of play for building trust.)

    • Doing all of these trust-building activities before you have the intense debates is time well invested.

  • One of the best things to do to prevent cognitive friction from going too far is to be alert to triggers that make things get personal.

    • When people start operating from a place of defensiveness, it’s often because their personal ego or group identity feels at stake.

    • When this happens, gently back things up and reframe things so that person can feel psychologically safe again.

    • Let people save face by reinforcing the rules of good debate. (See Lesson 2.6.)

  • When the friction in a group starts to go to far, you can depressurize things in a few ways:

    • Identify the source of the tension—especially if you can do it in a humorous way. Humor lets air out of the balloon.

    • Take a break to do a breathing exercise. Ten deep breaths—or even better, a walk around the block while breathing deeply—can reset the mood.

    • Put on happy background music. This makes silences less awkward, especially ones that occur after someone says something strong.

    • Pull up some photos of cute animals. Seriously, puppies and baby otters immediately make things less tense! :)

  • Ultimately, trust is built on repeated positive interactions. You can kickstart this by being the first to be vulnerable and trust others.

    • The more you see someone perform a task well, the more likely you’ll trust them with a similar task.

    • In the same way, the more someone shows you that their intentions for the group are good, the more you’ll be likely to give them benefit of the doubt.

    • Show your intentions are good through micro-actions that benefit the larger group.

    • Exposing your vulnerabilities to others is a show of trust that makes it easy for them to feel safe to reciprocate.

    • The literal words, “I trust you,” can go a long way.