7 Factors that Build Trust, Part 7

7 Factors that Build Trust, Part 7

Trust Factor #7: Generous Assumption

This is one of my favorite trust factors and one I try to use regularly in all areas of my life. A generous assumption means we are giving others the benefit of the doubt until we have more information. If someone cuts me off in traffic I will often create a story of why they are driving so recklessly; “maybe they are late for the 5th time and are going to be fired if they aren’t there on time, maybe their wife is in labor, maybe they are having difficulties in their life and are taking their frustration out on the road, etc.”

I first heard of this a couple of years ago while listening to yet another Brené Brown audio book (can you tell I’m a huge fan yet?). She challenged me to make a generous assumption before reacting and to ask myself “What story am I telling myself about this?” So as I often do, I made myself practice the advice I give to my clients.

An “opportunity” to practice came up when my husband’s dad ended up in the hospital due to some heart issues. The doctors were going to try some interventions out and said if they didn’t work they would flight for life him to get open heart surgery in Denver. I had asked my husband to call me hourly with updates, even if he didn’t know anything. Four hours went by and when I had heard nothing I started to get extremely upset. I figured this would be a bad time to call him up and chew him out, especially because I didn’t know why he hadn’t called. I made myself come up with three or four possibilities of why he hadn’t stayed in touch and also identified the “story” I was telling myself, which was that “I’m not important enough to remember to call.”

Identifying the “story” is so important because once we say it aloud it often sounds ridiculous. I know my husband thinks I’m important. So when I did call him I was still upset but was able to talk calmly and come with a sense of curiosity about what happened. We had a good conversation and I was able to set a boundary (trust factor #1) that in the future I fully expect him to do a better job keeping in touch.

Generous assumptions can help in so many situations and will save us a lot of grief if we regularly practice making them. Next time you are upset ask yourself what story you are creating and what generous assumption you can make about the other person. If you need to you can even communicate this with them by saying “the story I am telling myself is…”. This acknowledges our understanding that it is indeed a story and allows us to check out it’s validity with the other party.

Thanks for joining me in learning about the 7 Factors of Trust and stay tuned for more relationship tips in the future.


Ashley Mauldin

This post is inspired by the work of Brené Brown who has dedicated a portion of her research to finding out what creates and maintains deep levels of trust.