Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Volunteer or Prisoner? How Our Relationships Define Our Trust and Self-Worth

Can it be that our relationships, and how we get on with other people, rely upon and reveal more about ourselves and what we think of ourselves than any other factor?[1] How we see ourselves determines largely how we see others. This is an interesting thesis that turns the tables on how we see others—it’s the pointing-finger-at-others-whilst-having-three-of-our-own-fingers-pointing-back-at-ourselves scenario, if you like.

Recently I came across quite a simple yet awesomely insightful model for considering the role and impact of trust in workplace relationships. Indeed, the model works in any organisational setting, and probably further to collaborative relationships everywhere in all situations. The model suggests four broad archetypes positioned on square matrix with axes designated for high and low trust and self-worth.

Four Archetypes Relating to Trust and Self-Worth

The person with both high trust in others and high self-worth is a volunteer. They effuse passion. The next archetype down is survivalist. These have high self-worth but they have low trust in (some of) those they work with. They appear as volunteers but bow out when true voluntary commitment is required.

The third and fourth archetypes reveal those both with low self-worth; the whinger (who trusts) and the prisoner (who does not trust). Both of these are “victims” of their circumstances. Again, their lack of self-worth harms the rapport they have with their leaders and others in the common pursuit of goals.

Whilst one is dependent on others and is therefore prone to complaint, the other can’t stand being there (wherever “there” is); but truth be known, they can’t stand being anywhere really.

Little do people generally realise but we are mirrors of ourselves in our relationships. If our relationships go well it is primarily because we are going well. The opposite is also true.

The key is obviously trying to get to the state of volunteer, personally, and if we’re leaders ourselves it’s getting others on board so that they too are or can become volunteers.

Volunteering—as both an approach to life and a mental state—must surely be the halcyon condition for humanity to aspire to. The interesting thing is I wonder how being a willing volunteer might otherwise also increase our trust in others and our sense of self-worth.

© 2009 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Dr. Daryll Hull & Vivienne Read, Simply the Best Workplaces in Australia (ACIRRT Working Paper, University of New South Wales, December 2003), p. 31-33. This report quotes that John Evans, a Government consultant, believes “the development of trust in working relationships derives from the views that people have of themselves.”

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