Trust on Purpose

What happens to trust when truths remain unspoken?

April 22, 2024
What happens to trust when truths remain unspoken?
Trust on Purpose
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Trust on Purpose
What happens to trust when truths remain unspoken?
Apr 22, 2024

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In this episode of Trust on Purpose, Ila and Charles delve into the intricacies of honest communication and its profound impact on trust. Inspired by a quote from James Clear, they explore the concept that "a truth unsaid can still be felt" and discuss the implications of withholding truths in personal and professional relationships. 

Drawing from personal experiences and coaching insights, our hosts discuss the need to navigate a delicate balance between speaking up authentically and avoiding hurtful communication. From exploring the discomfort of ‘clearing the air’ to discussing ways to foster psychological safety in teams, they provide practical tips for navigating difficult conversations and repairing communication breakdowns. Through candid dialogue, they underscore the importance of vulnerability, empathy, and genuine connection in building trust within relationships.


We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

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Send us a message - we'd love to hear from you

In this episode of Trust on Purpose, Ila and Charles delve into the intricacies of honest communication and its profound impact on trust. Inspired by a quote from James Clear, they explore the concept that "a truth unsaid can still be felt" and discuss the implications of withholding truths in personal and professional relationships. 

Drawing from personal experiences and coaching insights, our hosts discuss the need to navigate a delicate balance between speaking up authentically and avoiding hurtful communication. From exploring the discomfort of ‘clearing the air’ to discussing ways to foster psychological safety in teams, they provide practical tips for navigating difficult conversations and repairing communication breakdowns. Through candid dialogue, they underscore the importance of vulnerability, empathy, and genuine connection in building trust within relationships.


We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

Speaker 1:

Hi, I'm Charles Feltman. And my name is Ila Edgar, and we're here for Trust on Purpose and today we have a topic that we've both run into in our lives and we believe pretty much everyone has at one point or another, and it's a behavior or an action that human beings tend to do that can erode trust slowly over a long period of time. And so, hila, I'm going to let you just we're basing this kind of off of a quote from James Clear that Hila brought up this morning. So take it away, hila.

Speaker 2:

So number one if you don't subscribe to James Clear's newsletter, I highly recommend it. It's short and sweet and there's always a juicy nugget to chew on. So the newsletter from last week had this idea from him. A truth unsaid can still be felt. What needs to be discussed but hasn't yet been said Clear the air.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, wow, yes, yes, clear the air. When the air is thick, sometimes it infects our own thinking and feeling, and the thought of clearing the air is very uncomfortable because we don't know what's going to happen. We don't know how the other person is going to react. We may, in fact, be uncomfortable with the action that we need to talk about the truth that is remaining unsaid and what that means about us. Perhaps that's where we want to go today, kind of dig into this. What can happen to trust when we don't speak that truth? That needs to be out. So what are your thoughts when you first read that? What came to mind for you? What came to mind for you?

Speaker 1:

Beside my reaction, yeah yeah, well, and it was a very much a somatic, a body reaction that you had. So what was going on with that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, immediately I felt constriction and I was holding my breath immediately. That was my immediate response because I think for me, even in my personal and professional life, there are definitely things that I don't share or I don't say, and I think that that's a dance we navigate as humans all the time and I'm reflecting a little bit on personal life and then also things that we see or how we interact with clients, and then what we observe with our clients around, what they withhold. So there's huge territory, there's a huge spread here that we could go down. I guess for today's topic and today's conversation, what's the cost of that withholding when we see that or experience that with a team? I'm feeling that that's the direction we could probably go, although, again, there's lots of directions we could go.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm going to just put this little piece in here too. Early on in my career as a coach, I realized that as a coach, obviously one needs to build strong trust with one's client. I need to build strong trust with my client. If I don't, then very little coaching is going to go on, because my client will be unwilling to be really vulnerable to me, which means they're missing out on being really vulnerable to themselves which is what that whole process is about.

Speaker 1:

But it occurred to me that once I began to build trust or had some trust with my client and I didn't say something that as a coach I believe would be important to bring up, to say of the question that came up to me, that I didn't ask, or the behavior or the something that I didn't put out there to the client because I felt like it might be too much, or I felt uncomfortable, like where was I going with this? That intuitive hit if I withheld that, that actually kind of damaged the trust, even though the client never knew that I was withholding that. I did, you did, yeah, and it stuck in me and then I would kind of pussyfoot around or beat around the bush and not really be as bold a coach as I wanted to be and needed to be for my clients. So even there, when we withhold something, a truth unspoken, when we withhold that, it puts a little bit of a wall between ourselves and the other person, between me and my client or between me and a friend, between me and whoever.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and how you said that. What really stood out for me is very often the other person doesn't know that we've withheld something or that you haven't asked that. I have a coaching mentor in my head. She's like Hila. There's no chicken shit coaching Like if you've got a question, plant the question If you're curious about something. But what it does to us we know. We know that we've withheld. They don't necessarily know whether it's personal relationship, coaching, client, whatever it is, we know. And so we're the ones and I've got our lovely Michelle Brody's voice in my head now. Right, okay, there's a layer of sunscreen, or maybe you know, 150 sunscreen instead of just 30. But there's something that happens for us in that withholding.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think James Clear actually points to something else that happens there, which is that the other person does know at some level they can read it, they can feel it, they can sense it that there's something that could have happened but didn't, something that might have been said could have happened but didn't, something that might have been set. They can sense our own wall building. That happens, as you just pointed out, are donning our own little bit of armor. What kind of a coach am I going to be if I approach coaching with a bunch of armor on Right? What kind of a friend am I going to be if I approach my friends with armor, yeah, yeah? What kind of a manager am I going to be if I armor up? Or teammate am I going to be if I armor up a little bit? Because I don't say Now.

Speaker 1:

I think I want to make something very clear here, though. We're not talking here about unloading on somebody. We're not talking about just dropping all of our garbage, about our thoughts, our random thoughts, our grievances, all of that stuff that we can carry around, about someone dropping out on them as if that's the truth. And I need to say this to you because I'm giggling a little bit.

Speaker 2:

Once upon a time was a client that I worked with and we had done some values work and she realized that honesty was one of her values. But imagine, I've got my volume button here. Imagine honesty at like mock a hundred. So while she was being very honest, she was also not being filtered. There wasn't a for the sake of why am I saying this honesty? It was just. She basically blurred out whatever was on her mind and felt well, I'm living in my value because my value is honesty. I'm like well, we also don't want to hurt people with our words. So is there a way to balance both?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yes, I think that's the key thing here is for the sake of what would I say. Yes, I think that's the key thing here is for the sake of what would I say, whatever it is that I'm about to say, and who is going to be positively impacted by that? Will I be positively impacted? Okay, that's good. Will the other person be positively impacted? That's where the gold is.

Speaker 2:

It was interesting. It was interesting last week I had a follow-up session with a client that about a month ago we did a half-day trust workshop, and so my practice is about three to four weeks later let's have a follow-up. So what have you noticed? What are you still curious about? What have you been practicing? What successes have you had?

Speaker 2:

And it was really interesting in this team because they have a my words, not theirs they have a high assessment that they're actually a really good team and they function really well together. And and so fascinating, as we talked about, if you could have greater trust in the team, what would be the and I'm using James Clear's 1% what would you want to be different? And I used an anonymous whiteboard and so nobody knew whose stickies were going up on what we could do better. And it was fascinating that many of the comments were about being more accountable, owning up to our mistakes, letting people know when I'm not going to be able to do something, and so, again, like I'm thinking, these are all these things that we hold back because we don't want to look like we're not competent. We don't want to look like we're not competent. We don't want to look like we're not reliable, we don't want to look like, but the impact again of not saying these things yeah, it's just. It was fascinating, as I'm like thinking about that conversation differently.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I think that's actually what you're in some ways putting your finger on. Yeah, and I think that's actually what you're in some ways putting your finger on. I know this from my own experience, having been in the situation of not saying something that I really should say, thinking my rationale might be that, oh, I don't want to hurt the other person's feelings, or they'll react badly, or I don't want to make a bad situation worse, so I withhold it and that wall starts to get built. Really, that's about me, that's about my own. I don't want to look bad. I don't want to look like the bad guy. I don't want to look like someone because you're saying who's not reliable, who's not trustworthy? In some way myself and yes, the conversation needs to be had it might be really uncomfortable for me and the other person If we don't have't make them so defensive that they don't hear. In other words, how do I create a listening in them that can really hear what I'm saying?

Speaker 2:

Can I take a tiny little pivot here? Oh yeah, and so, as you're saying this, I'm well, literally I'm holding my breath again and I'm thinking about. I had the privilege of being in the classroom, so teaching in the classroom for a couple of days last week with a lovely group of clients, and it came out in our conversations that the withholding actually quite often comes going upwards, that the sideways or even the to my direct reports is easier, a little bit more comfortable, but the withholding happens way more when it's to my leader or my leader's leader, and in this context with this group, it was. I feel, like I've said things before and nothing happened, or a lot of it actually was. They don't have time, and I equate that to they don't have time. Therefore they won't listen, or they don't have that listening that what I'm trying to share is really important and just feeling that not being heard.

Speaker 2:

And so there was, which I think is now another episode. I'm planting a seed here. That's a whole episode on its own. You know, it really hit my heart and I felt deep sadness about this lovely group of people who care deeply about the organization they work for and feeling really there's so much we don't feel we can say.

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Speaker 2:

And do I use this word Like not safe, not okay to be vulnerable in that way?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Like not safe, not okay to be vulnerable in that way. Yeah, and I think that's why psychological safety has become such a thing. Before Amy Edmondson kind of coined the term and what it means, you never heard about that. But I think that's huge, the fact that without some degree of vulnerability and openness in other words, again, as we refer back to Michelle Brody the fact that we can put on armor and not even know we're wearing it we can armor ourselves with behaviors that put a damper on our communication with each other, our honesty with each other, our truth telling with each other. It just slows everything down and that is sad because people really committed to their mission, what they're trying to do together, and yet don't feel sufficiently safe to speak up to say what they need to say, to challenge each other around the ideas that they're working with. So everybody suffers Submission suffers yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and a lot of that is based on trust and psychological safety. I think we've said before in other episodes, and Amy Edsminson and others say this as well is psychological safety is built on a foundation of trust. So what does that mean? What does that mean for when we don't trust the other person, when I'm afraid to say something because I'm afraid the other person will react in some way that is uncomfortable for me, that's a problem. That's because I don't trust them. We're not building that kind of trust, I'm not extending trust to them that they'll be able to handle what I have to say, be able to manage themselves and respond in a way that we can both work with and build with, then we really are not going to create the foundation for psychological safety, let alone any of the other good work that we want to need to do with each other in order to achieve our mission.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm thinking still of this group and I think the more senior leadership would be also profoundly sad to hear that this is how some of their leaders are feeling, yeah, and that they're not doing it on purpose. For the most part. Many humans, most humans on the face of the earth, like wake up and put their feet on the floor. And how can I be a good human today? I don't think there's very many of like. How can I mess up people's lives today? How can I be a jerk, Right? How can I not listen to my team? How can I make them feel crap? But how do we close this gap? How do we help people close this gap, whether it's in a work environment or in relationships that we really care about?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Well, I know one of the things that seems to help me, has helped me in the past and helps my clients in the coaching conversations that I have with them individual clients anyway is to really encourage them to say what they want to say, or say what they feel like they need to say. That's important to say, but don't filter it. Just put it out there, because I'm not going to have the reaction you're afraid of. I'm not going to think any less of you at all, I'm not going to get into an argument with you about it. So put it out there and then begin to think about how you can work with it till you get what you're needing to say across in that way that people are okay with it can be okay. You can build on it and work with the other person. So there's that trying it out kind of practice, and I see you're smiling.

Speaker 2:

Immediately I'm like hell. No, absolutely not, and I think this comes from probably my own lived experience, where I've been on the receiving end of things I can't unhear. And so now I'm very I'm much more intentional about the words that I use and how I say things, is writing out my thoughts or practicing them and being really clear about, for the sake of, why am I saying this, what's the message I really want to get across? And again, I'm saying this because I want to minimize the possibility of saying something that hurts so deeply that I can't take it back, but that's also a oh gosh, as I say this out loud.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

That's also me wanting to be in control. That's me also maybe not being completely vulnerable and hedging a little bit or not staging, like I still want to be very authentic and sincere and I see your browser furrowing and you've yeah okay, so yeah, yeah, sorry. We need to talk about this. There's some work here to be done, I know, I know.

Speaker 1:

Well, and you know I've been there too. You know I don't. I don't want to be seen as someone who is a bull in the china shop, kind of unkind, just blurting stuff. I'd done that before earlier in my life and I was telling my son about this at some point, a couple of episodes in which I said something that was very hurtful to someone else because I didn't filter it myself at all and then felt bad and still, I mean I still feel uncomfortable telling him about it. I still felt uncomfortable about it after decades.

Speaker 1:

But often I think part of that is that unless we have an opportunity to really think it through whether it's writing it out or saying it, speaking it out loud to a coach or a friend and being able to overhear ourselves and then kind of bring it into a form that is going to be hopefully listened to by the other person Again, big part of that's for the sake of what? Yeah, am I even saying this? Yeah, what do I hope this will accomplish by saying this, whether it's to another individual or to a team full of people, whatever the context is, what do I want to move forward here or achieve, or what's the outcome I'm looking for? And A. Do I even need to say this to achieve that outcome? Can there be achieved in some other way Without wimping out?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and now I feel like there's an art and science to this. Oh, absolutely. There's no like clear cut boundaries and rules about this time you say things and this time you keep your mouth shut.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. But really considering what the outcome is, I'm looking for for the sake of what am I saying this and really thinking about how it's going to land with the other person? And can I tailor without becoming inauthentic, without muzzling myself by still being able to say what I need to say? Can I say it in a way that they can really hear it? Otherwise, it is not worth saying If I can't say it in a way that they can hear it, then why say it at all, other than to unload my own stuff? Really, the outcome there is, for the sake of what is? I want to feel better by unloading my stuff on that other person, which is not really going to accomplish what I want.

Speaker 2:

And I feel like, as we are talking about this, I feel like maybe that happens more when we're in a spicy, crunchy situation and it's easier to just let the things out because the emotions are high, maybe they're heated, maybe they're spicy. Whatever they are, I feel like it's easier when we're in that big emotion to say things that maybe we haven't really thought about. For the sake of why am I saying this? Yeah, absolutely yeah absolutely.

Speaker 1:

That's, in fact, when we tend to say those things. So part of that, of course, is being able to manage our own state, even when things are stressful, when emotions are running high. To be able to manage our own state to some degree. And then, beyond that, to what extent can we trust the other person to be mature, to really listen? To what extent can we trust ourselves to be mature, to really speak honestly and with kindness?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a lifelong project, oh my God.

Speaker 1:

That's a lifelong project.

Speaker 2:

Even just thinking about the last 24, 48, 72 hours of my life. Yeah, I feel like the other part of this, which this theme or message is reiterated in many, many, many of our episodes, is when something has caused an amiss in our relationship. Then how do we take care of it? If we're out of whack with our art and science of saying withholding, and we have said something that has been hurtful or damaging, or we haven't said something, how is it really about taking care of the relationship? Oh, oh, yay. Do-over cards, do-over cards, do-over cards.

Speaker 1:

For those of you who have not heard about this Hila came up with these wonderful little cards that she uses when she does workshops with people. She gives them all little cards that say Do-over and has people practice one-on-one, essentially asking for a do over, acknowledging. You know, I screwed that up. That was terrible. What I just said or did yesterday or last week or five minutes ago. I recognize that and I really want to do that over.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and we may not have a do-over card in our pocket, but we can still do that. We can still say you know what? I apologize, I am so sorry that I said what I said. In a way, I said it. I was trying to get something out there that I think was important for us to both look at, and I said it very poorly. Yeah, and I see that that was painful for you or whatever. We see it very poorly and I see that that was painful for you or whatever we see. And then can we try again, maybe not right now, but at some point in the future when you feel ready, mm-hmm.

Speaker 2:

And so I'm going to circle us back to the quote from James Clear that we started with. A truth unsaid can still be felt, what needs to be discussed that hasn't been said yet. Clear the air. So the invitation to speak. And when we have spoken and we feel it didn't land right, guess what we can go back and say here's the truth. I think I handled that really poorly. I want to clear the air, I want to take care of the relationship. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I think that's a big part of the whole process of trust building. We've talked about this before but the idea of both taking care of the content, whatever that is, and the context, the relationship itself. So it's not just about getting the information or idea or whatever across the other person that, whatever that might be, I think you need to do something different with your life. You're being a total jerk. You really need to take a look at how you interact with other people.

Speaker 2:

You're an a-hole.

Speaker 1:

But getting that piece across in a way that continues to also take care of the relationship. My investment is in both.

Speaker 2:

Okay, now I'm planting a seed for another episode, because this is also, I think, where we get into trickies around. What we say or don't say is that we're often talking about our assessments of someone versus the actual behaviors.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So what have you done that has led me to the assessment that you're a jerk? What are the behaviors that are leading me to think that way? You want me to tell you what I think I've done.

Speaker 1:

That just made you think I'm a jerk.

Speaker 2:

No, because I don't think you're a jerk. Oh, good that has never been one of my assessments about you. Never, no, but I might think that I might have that assessment about someone else. And so, again, what's making me go to that assessment? What are the behaviors that I've seen that's leading me to believe that to be true? And it doesn't always work.

Speaker 1:

For example, I had a situation some few years ago where I was taking care of this whole client relationship with this company and the specific person I interacted with over a period of about four or five years around this kind of work that we were doing. At one point she basically went to the person I was working for and said I can't deal with Charles anymore. She didn't come to me and say, well, she had the way she put it. I didn't hear it. So she did what makes sense, right? She went to my boss. Essentially I was a contractor, but she went to my boss and said, hey, I don't want to work with Charles anymore, I can't do it. So I brought it to my coach as a you know, here's what's going on. I don't know quite what to do about this.

Speaker 1:

And my coach listened to me for a while and said I think what's going on, what I hear in what you're saying and how you're saying it is I hear arrogance. And if this individual had been able to formulate that and say the feeling I get from you is arrogance for me was arrogance, that might've been a game changer for me. When you say this in this way, I feel that you think that you're better than I am. You have better ideas, you have a better way of doing things, and whatever it is that she wanted to say around that that might've landed for me and I could have cleaned up my act before she was to the point where she needed to not have anything to do with me anymore. Yeah, sometimes it's challenging. It's very challenging.

Speaker 2:

It's so subjective, it's so complicated. We're pulling all sorts of resources into this conversation. Now I'm referring to the continuum of communication from Aaron Meyer's the Culture Map and I actually use that continuum without putting all of the different countries. But where do you feel you fall on this continuum? And I have participants just place like a sticky dot and it's fascinating to see low context, high context and everything in between. It's like no wonder we have communication breakdowns. It's so complicated, it's so complicated, yeah.

Speaker 1:

You mentioned this a little bit earlier, but I think one of the things that we can do to lessen the complication is to recognize, when we're making an assessment that is, it's my belief, my opinion, my assessment and then taking a look at, well, what supports this assessment, what actual facts, behaviors, data in some way that can be proven supports my assessment.

Speaker 1:

So I'm not just throwing out assessments that are, we might say, ungrounded, but rather grounding my assessments so that there's something there that the other person can grab onto. That's why, in the thin book of trust, when I laid out a kind of a roadmap to, or some things to think about before you try and have a conversation with somebody whom you are finding you distrust in some way, part of that is to think about okay, what are the facts behind what you're about to say that say you don't trust them? What are the behaviors that you can point to which is, in effect, a fact? What's the behavior that you can point to that you're interpreting as X? And then the other person that has an opportunity to say, oh, okay, I do recognize that behavior, just like I might've recognized the behavior of, in this relationship that I talked about earlier, the behavior of not listening to the client when she was trying to tell me something. That's a fact that I can sort of take a look at and go oh okay, yeah, I see that now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, a lot of stuff here. We've covered the gamut today.

Speaker 1:

We have. So let's kind of pull together a few salient pieces here. One is that, starting with James Clear's quote, if we don't say the truth, that really needs to be spoken. It's still felt, it's still felt by us and for us it's like sort of starting to build a little wall between ourselves and the other person. It's felt by the other person. Although they may not be consciously aware of it, they're aware of it at some level and so for them there's going to be a little wall building going on, a little armor they're going to put on that will damage the trust between me and them, us and them.

Speaker 1:

And so how do we manage? How we say the truth that needs to be said, how do we bring it out and air it in a way that is going to get us where we want to go, not only us but the other person. So taking care of what needs to be said and also taking care of the relationship that we have with this other person. Yeah, and in the business context, we may not think about the relationship part of it very much at all, because oh hey, we're just working together and they're just another person working here. Yeah, so often the relationship part of it gets kind of overlooked. We don't value taking care of the relationship as much as getting stuff done.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I won't add to that, I'm just nodding in agreement. I'm nodding in agreement, I think, the other part that I'll share, and I don't know if you noticed this, but as you started talking about how can we approach or what are the pieces, the salient pieces, that we can start to notice differently, I immediately exhaled.

Speaker 1:

So where did that exhale come from? What was that for you?

Speaker 2:

A reminder to be present in the conversation. So be present with myself, be present in the conversation and be present to what the other person is offering or potentially not offering, because I can also develop a listening, for that. I sense that there might be something on your mind. I just want you to know that I'm open yes, the invitation and to be present. So for me, that exhale is really about being present.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thank you. Thank you, hila. This has been a really good conversation. I think I've gotten a lot out of it Me too, as. I always do Me too your community, wherever you find yourself, needing to say what needs to be said in order to maintain and strengthen your relationships, maintain and strengthen trust with the people around you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, charles. On behalf of both Charles and myself, we want to say a big thank you to our producer and sound editor, chad Penner. Hillary Rideout of Inside Out Branding, who does our promotion, our amazing graphics and marketing for us, and our theme music was composed by Jonas Smith. If you have any questions or comments for us about the podcast, if you have a trust-related situation that you'd like us to take up in one of our episodes, we'd love to hear from you at trust, at trustonpurposeorg.

Speaker 1:

And we'd also like to thank you, our listeners. Take care and keep building trust on purpose Until next time.

Speaker 2:

Until next time.

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