How Trust Is Like Marbles In A Jar

Author-Researcher Brené Brown’s abiding interest in the subject of “trust” was heightened by an experience her daughter Ellen had at school when a friend betrayed her trust.

Speaking at a UCLA-based Oprah Winfrey Super Soul Session, Brown used a marble jar positive behavior tool as a measure of how much we trust the people in our lives.

Research changed Brené’s ongoing assumption that trust cannot be built around small moments in our lives. “It is very clear,” she said, “trust is built in very small moments.” Trust is not an event; it collects/develops over time like marbles in a jar.

For example: When asked, one woman said, “Yeah, I really trust my boss. She even asked me how my mom’s chemotherapy was going.” One important marble in the trust relationship. Also, people who showed up for the funeral of other people’s relatives also earned a trust marble.

Trust marbles

Another huge marble jar moment for people: “I trust him because he’ll ask for help when he needs it.” That is to say, I trust him because he trusts me enough to be vulnerable. Brown knows that we are much better at giving help than asking for it because we are reluctant to be vulnerable with another person.

Brown decided to create her own definition of what trust is and the result is BRAVING. “When we trust, we are ‘BRAVING’ connection with someone.”

Here is an abbreviated version of what BRAVING means. For her full definition, you may watch the video in its entirety.   

BoundariesI trust you if you are clear about each of our boundaries and you respect them. There is no trust without boundaries.

Reliability –“I can only trust you if you do what you say you are going to do over and over and over again. In our working life we have to be very clear about our limitations so we don’t over commit and come up short. In our personal life, it means the same thing.

AccountabilityI can only trust you if, when you make a mistake you are willing to own it, apologize for it, and make amends.

VaultWhat I share with you, you will hold in confidence. What you share with me I will hold in confidence. This must be reciprocal.”

IntegrityI cannot be in a trusting relationship with you if you do not act from a place of integrity, and encourage me to do the same.”

In non judgmentI can fall apart and ask for help and be in struggle without being judged by you. And you can fall apart and be in struggle without being judged by me.”

Generosity Our relationship is a trusting relationship only if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions and behaviors and then check in with me.

Brown believes that we cannot talk about trust if we generalize. Understanding trust gives us very specific words to say instead of using this huge word that has tons of weight and value around it.

One of the biggest causalities with heartbreak, disappointment and failure in our struggle is not just the loss of trust with other people but also the loss of trust of ourselves.

When something hard happens in our lives the first thing we often say is “I can’t trust myself. I was so stupid.” This BRAVING acronym works for self-trust too.

What Brown invites us to think about when we think about trust is – “If your own marble jar is not full, if you can’t count on yourself, you can’t ask other people to give you what you don’t have.” We have to start with self-trust. The poet Maya Angelou said, “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves, but say I love you.”

If you find yourself in struggle with trust, first examine your own marble jar. We can’t ask others to give to us something that we do not believe we are worthy of receiving. You will know you are worthy of receiving trust when you trust yourself above everyone else.

Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership 

Would you tell the truth to your competitors? Why or why not?

Honesty is a value that many leaders aspire to embrace, and if that were true of you, how would you answer this question?


Must you tell the truth in every situation, or is it important to consider and accommodate the needs of different constituencies, audiences and stakeholders such as General Counsel and CFO, Chairman of the Board, investors, operations managers across the country, competitors, employees, customers, intimates, children, spouse? [Read more…]

The Importance of Trust –
Part 1: Self-Trust

Self-Trust

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

I cannot stress enough the importance of building self-trust. To build trust with others, we must first start with ourselves. A lack of self-trust will undermine our ability to trust others. Although friends and family may be there for us, ultimately we have only ourselves to count on.

Here are some ways to help in the building of self-trust. [Read more…]