Saturday, November 01, 2008

Group Work

If it's Friday it must be Regina. We arrived at the church hall where I was to be presenting and got ourselves all set up. This was not a general conference where anyone can attened. Instead this was an inservice for staff of one organization only. There are benefits to both conferences and inservices. With conferences you spread the message far and wide, with inservices you aim to make the information sink more deeply into the culture of an organization. I like both challenges.

As I sat at my table getting my notes ready and getting into the 'zone' for presenting I watched them fill in. There were a little over a hundred of them. The first thing I noticed was that there was a unusually high number of men in the room. Somewhere between a third and a half were men. The second thing that I noticed was they they were all quite young.

Young crowds are a little different than older crowds. Young people still remember school and equate training with being bored. Older crowds are just grateful for a day away from the worksite and often care more about the lunch than the presentation. Generalizations to be sure but younger crowds are, over all, just a wee harder to get on side.

They had chosen the topic of Communication, and as part of that they are required to do a group excercize. Each group of 6 has to write down a defininition of the word 'trust'. There's a point to be made from this, but it's not the point of the blog. I've done this presenation and this excercize a couple of thousand times. And I hear a lot of really good and thoughtful definitions.

But here in a church hall in Regina, one of the groups came ups with a definition that really struck me. I found at the end of the day I was still thinking about it so I asked them if I could keep a copy and if I could publish it on my blog.

Here it is ...

Trust is something very precious and valuable that is not given freely or easily, expecially when it has been mistreated or violated in the past, instead it is given carefully and guardedly to one who through constant and proven care has earned the prviledge of receving such a valuable gift. The one giving this gift is becoming vulnerable, the one receiving the gift has been given power. We have to value this trust and guard it as much as possible with the genuine and consistant desire to use this power to help and support the one who has given us this trust.

In all my years of doing this, this was the first group who looked at the power that trust gives another. The power to hurt, the power to heal. They understood, through their definition that they needed to be very careful as keepers of that power.

When I was given the paper they'd used to write the definition on I put it carefully among my notes. As I read it, I wasn't sure if it would mean as much to anyone else as it did to me. But I'm taking the chance and hoping that just reading this will make you aware of the power of trust, the vulnerability of trusting and the precious nature of the shared obligations that come with trust and trusting.

It did me.

I hope it does for you too.

Thanks to the Regina group who gave this to me. I'm going to keep it in my lecture notes for a long time.


Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

How sad that this is the only group you've encountered in your years of presentation that has generated a definition of "trust" that involves the concept of "power." Perhaps they all should. Power is always something that has to be handled with so much caution, whether it's rooted in authority that has been vested in you, or in trust that has been given to you freely.

Anything related to power imbalances, and why they are so, so, very criticial to be mindful of, immediately makes me think of a dozen different blog posts at Amanda Bagg's blog--too many to point to just one of them:

I can see why this paragraph stands out for you, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Dave & the Regina group;I love this difininition and I would like to share it with my co workers at the sheltered workshop I am employed.

lina said...

wow, that did leave quite the impression and I also plan to share this one.
thanks Dave.

Jennifer said...

Hi Dave,
Thank you for this. It resonated very strongly with me.

A request: would you be willing to put up a link on your sidebar to the "words hit like a fist" post? It's no problem to use Google when I want it to find it, but in my opinion, this is one of many excellent posts on your blog and I would love to see it as something people casually browsing could stumble across easily.

I don't think I've ever commented here before, but I think your blog is wonderful-your posts always have great insight and tell about pieces of the world that are so often overlooked.

rickismom said...

Very interesting....

Anonymous said...

Dave, I was one of the few "older" woman at your inservice yesterday and wanted to tell you that it was the best day I've spent in many years.

Your words made me laugh, they brought tears to my eyes but most importantly, they made me think about my everyday interactions with the kids that live in our house. I will take your words to work with me everyday...thank you Dave!

gracie1956 said...

Trust is so difficult to give once it has been abused. Absolutely true. I see the results of that mis-use of power in my daughter everyday. We have been to therapy and the therapist said she was about as good as she could get. She has panic attacks that have sent her to the ER. She has nightmares from her experience in a group home. That was eight years ago. I'm not talking about those nightmares where you just remember them the next morning. These are the wake-up screaming for Mom in the middle of the night, type of nightmares. These are the kind that may prevent her from ever really trusting again. She used to trust so easily. Now she is dis-trustful of so many people. I worry about what will happen to her when I am gone and I can hardly think about that because of my own fears. I'm trying to gently prepare her because I am terminally ill. Thank you for the work you do. Please come to Texas someday. Maybe the future care giver for my daughter will be there to learn what you teach.

Ettina said...

"In all my years of doing this, this was the first group who looked at the power that trust gives another. The power to hurt, the power to heal. They understood, through their definition that they needed to be very careful as keepers of that power."

As an abuse survivor, who trusted someone and got hurt by them, I've known this to be true for a long time.

Daren Haygarth said...

I was fortunate to be in the group that put this definition together and I want to assure you that a staff member by the name of Rick was the real composer of this definition. I have had the good fortune to work with Rick for a few years now. It is refressing to work with quality people such as Rick. I wanted to assure that credit was given where credit was due.

The feedback from your training has carried on through out the week. People who felt that they were "in tune" have spoken to me about the impact of the training and how they have re-evaluated their own beliefs about how they support others. Thank you for the presentation and I look forward to the next opportunity to cross paths.

rick said...

Thank you for posting this definition on your blog. Thank you also for posting the comments. I was the person that handed you the definition. The group was off getting coffee for themselves and I had a moment to think about the task at hand. I wondered what the essence of this definition was. I began to realize first of all that trust was a very precious and valuable thing. I realized that it was not given freely but it was something earned by the one receiving it. I also realized that it contained risk, vulnerability, power. So I wrote down what I was thinking. I am glad it seemed to touch others. However, it still did not satisfy my understanding of why? What makes it so? So I have been trying to figure out why is it so precious, valuable, scary, and dangerous. What is trust still has to be answered for me. I began to think of another definition. I wish I could have thought a bit longer about it at the time and I would have started out the definition this way...

Trust is that specific point that is reached in a person’s life where he is able to place his confidence and faith in the hands of another person (or thing). It is at this point where he, in fact, to greater or lesser degrees, places his own life in the hands of another person (or thing). That is what makes it so valuable and precious, so carefully given, and so dangerously handled.
Thank you again for a great session in Regina.