If you’re like me these days, you’ve been inspired by Brene Brown’s “Anatomy of Trust” talk on Oprah’s Super Soul series. In it, she uses the acronym BRAVING to define the different qualities that must be present for someone to really deeply trust: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-Judgement, and Generosity. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out below:

This is a brilliant and inspiring way to illuminate the various dimensions of trust. Yet, the picture she paints may seem like a very high bar. Many of her line items point to capacities that are stifled or shut down for many of us, due to environments that did not meet us as we needed as we grew up.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to take that much to get these “higher level human capacities” online. As long as you have a focused approach and you really get at the root of what’s preventing each from flourishing. You don’t need to do years of therapy. You just need to start recognizing the “inter-psychic” conflicts that are keeping these capacities under the water line. A great place to start is exploring in yourself how each of her aspects of trust may or may not be showing up.

Below, I’ve gone through each of Brene’s principles of trust and offered some “symptoms” that point to a capacity not being fully online, along with some practices for how to bring what is happening into awareness:


Symptoms: You often feel over worked or overwhelmed.  It does not seem that others “get” how much you have on your plate. You might feel that you have to protect yourself from others getting too close or too much of you.  You might watch yourself retreat to protect yourself.  Needing to tend to boundaries can also show up as extreme sensitivity or as a tendency to isolate.

Practice:  Pay attention to when you feel over worked, overwhelmed or sucked dry.  See if you can begin to see common threads.  Are there certain situations where this is more prevalent?  If it’s unclear, you may want to get some support to help you see is happening.


Symptoms:  People may get irritated or angry with you because you change your mind or your plans frequently and, perhaps, you don’t think to close the loop with them. Or you tend to keep things loose – not really committing or not. You may feel perplexed, wondering why the irritation, what the issue is, yet this happens over and over.  You are left scratching your head, or are irritated yourelf at their (fill in the blank).

Practice: Start watching when this happens. Do you say “Yes” when you really want to say “No”? If so, what is happening for you? Play with asking the 5 why’s. Once you get to the 5th iteration, you may learn something!


Symptoms:  Making mistakes is challenging for you. You may do all you can to hide them, or to not call attention to them.  When people want you to apologize, you get irritated or angry.  You may feel pressured to say something that does not feel right to you. You don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Practice: Notice what happens for you when you discover that you have made a mistake.  Slow down and notice – How do you feel? What do you think? How does your body feel? What do you do?


Symptoms: Gossip and openly sharing about others is common in your life and in your circle of friends. You connect that way – you hear something juicy, you pass it along.  Sometimes you notice people getting uncomfortable when you share. That may be perplexing for you.

Practice:  Notice what you are sharing, and how you share it.  Ask yourself, is this something I would want shared about me?  How would I feel if this were someone else sharing this about me?


Symptoms: Your default is toward comfort.  If something whiffs of conflict, you do all you can to avoid it. You work hard to maintain “harmony”, even if that means not saying what is true.  Others may get irritated with you, asking why you did not just tell them (fill in the blank).

Practice: Exercise your conflict muscles.  Ask yourself:  What bad thing happens if I tell x about how I really feel about y?  Start small.  See what happens.


Symptoms: You have an attitude of “I’ve got it”, or “I don’t need help”. It’s hard to ask for help, and when other’s ask, sometimes it’s irritating – you may feel like “hey, I just figure it out, can’t you??”

Practice: Get curious. Why is it some people can easily ask for help, and others don’t? How does that work?  How does it serve me to tough it out and do it all by myself?  Is there a cost to this? What is the cost?


Symptoms:  When something happens and it’s ambiguous or unclear, you automatically leap into all the terrible, awful, horrible things that could be happening. Your assumption is one of malice, ignorance, uncaring or greed.

Practice:  SLOW DOWN.  Breathe. Notice what is happening. Ask yourself: Do I really know with 100% certainty that this is true?  If not, check it out.  Ask. See if something else is possible.

With a little effort and attention it’s possible to deepen your own anatomy of trust. And that leads to better relationships, which build up those around you. When it comes to trust, the old adage “when the sea rises all ships rise” is particularly true. Trust is contagious and the more you’re able to look into your own obstacles and liberate these deeper capacities, the more you’ll give others the permission to do the same.




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