People seated around a conference table talking

Welcome back to our series! As you build a climate where your staff are open to engaging in scratchy dialogue that results in greater understanding, let’s dive into some of the most important factors that contribute to a brave space.

For most individuals, having a difficult conversation is easier to do when they have a set of ground rules to navigate the discussion. While those norms are important to supporting respectful, productive dialogue, if staff don’t have confidence in their coworkers, it is impossible to interact authentically through all aspects of your identity.

To lay the foundation for a brave space, it’s essential to create relational trust. According to Bryk and Schneider, relational trust is built when individuals:

  • Demonstrate respect through genuine listening
  • Engage in perspective taking to support understanding
  • Believe that others are competent enough to achieve desired outcomes
  • Perceive that they are cared for by others
  • Have confidence that people will follow through on their words with actions

As you unpack the considerations above and reflect on your staff dynamics, it can be useful to evaluate your relationship with trust and how it influences your willingness to fully participate in challenging discussions.

Understanding Your Perceptions of Trust

The ways that confidence is built and broken will be different for every person. Some influences may include Thinking and Behavioral preferences, past experiences and cultural identity.

To begin recognizing the factors that allow you to speak candidly, I encourage to set aside about 20 minutes to reflect on the questions below. You may find it helpful to review your Emergenetics® Profile as well, as it’s likely that your Thinking and Behavioral preferences can provide additional insights into your responses.

  1. Who are you most vulnerable with? How did you build that relationship?
  2. What actions and behaviors build trust for you? What erodes it?
  3. What do you need to hear from others to give credence to their statements or opinions?
  4. How do you show people that you have confidence in them?
  5. How do your identities (e.g., cultural, ethnic, gender, family roles, etc.) contribute to your willingness to consider opposing beliefs or experiences?

Expanding Your Perceptions of Trust

Now that you’ve taken stock, let’s explore a few of the factors that may impact your colleagues’ willingness to engage in honest discussion through the lens of the Emergenetics Thinking combinations and Behavioral preferences.

Convergent Thinking (Analytical and Structural preferences)

To build trust with staff who prefer to engage in this combination of thought, it’s helpful to provide objective information in a rational, detailed manner. When individuals are imprecise or put too much emphasis on feelings over facts, it may erode trust.

Divergent thinking iconDivergent Thinking (Social and Conceptual preferences)

Divergent thinking staff members appreciate opportunities to explore concepts and hear from the experiences and feelings of others. They may lose faith in their coworkers if they feel their colleagues are dismissive of ideas or exclude individuals from sharing their contributions.

Abstract Thinking iconAbstract Thinking (Analytical and Conceptual preferences)

Staff members with an Abstract combination of thought tend to open up when they can hear and share big ideas that add value to the discussion. When input is critiqued without critical evaluation, they may be less inclined to participate.

Concrete Thinking (Structural and Social preferences)

Staff members who are Concrete Thinkers often appreciate thoughtful conversation that is inclusive of others and done through a clear process. If rules are broken or individuals are criticized, they may disengage from the dialogue.

Expressiveness iconExpressiveness

When it comes to first-third Expressives, respect is built when space to think first and share thoughts second is provided. They may shut down if they are put on the spot or talked over. Third-third Expressives appreciates an environment where they can think and process out loud. Trust can be damaged if they do not have an opportunity to express themselves.


First-third Assertive team members are often more willing to contribute to a steady and calm discussion to move their opinions forward. They may not participate if they perceive others to be looking for an argument or debate. Third-third Assertives typically appreciate direct, even challenging discussion to move their opinions forward. Doubts may arise if they believe their coworkers are holding back from expressing honest beliefs.

Flexibility iconFlexibility

Individuals in the first-third of Flexibility are more likely to rely on people who stay the course on decisions. They may lose faith if changes are made without a valid explanation. Those in the third-third of Flexibility often appreciate opportunities to contribute alternative ideas for change. They may become detached if they feel that only one point of view is being considered.

As you read through the needs and interests of the different Thinking combinations and Behaviors, certain characteristics may resonate with you while others may bring to mind some of your colleagues who work differently. When you are trying to create a brave space, it’s essential to find ways to honor how others build trust – and not default to your preferences. It’s also important to consider the entire picture, not simply Thinking or Behavioral styles.

Just consider a Divergent thinker with preferences for first-third Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility compared with a Divergent thinker with preferences for the third-third of Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility. While they may share a Thinking combination, their Behaviors are diametrically opposed, which is likely to impact the environmental factors that innately influence their relational trust.

How can you honor both perspectives?

For that answer, you’ll need to tune into my next blog post in the series. In the meantime, I encourage you to have a discussion with your staff about what will build or break trust for them. By getting an understanding of the actions you and your staff can take or behavioral shifts you can make to support one-to-one relationships, you can set the foundation for more honest, difficult and meaningful dialogue.

Discover how STEP can help create a climate of confidence and understanding. Learn more about our programs or fill out the form to speak with one of our team members today.

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