I was wracking my brain recently about how to help a group think about trust in a new way when a friend shared her method for describing trust:  a door.

It goes like this.  Imagine there is a door between you and other people. Your door determines how open, vulnerable, and transparent you are willing to be with others.

Your door developed over the course of your life as you learned from experiences—and it served to keep you safe in some way.   Your door is built out of all the things that make you, well, You—your values, your style, your ego, your fears.

When your door is wide open, it means you are completely open, vulnerable and transparent with the other person.  As Brené Brown says in her excellent TED talk, you let yourself be really seen, warts and all.

When your door is closed, it means you are closed off to the other person, unwilling to be vulnerable, unwilling to be seen, because you do not trust them and do not want to be hurt in some way.

We consciously and unconsciously choose how open our door is with others—for some people, we keep our door tightly shut.  For others, we keep it wide open.    For many, we crack it a bit, not fully committing but not keeping it slammed shut either.

Why does the door matter?  It goes back to trust.   Ever tried to talk to someone through a closed door? How does it sound? If you have experience yelling at someone through a closed door, like your parents or even your kids, you know that it was not the most open and trusting experience you’ve ever had.

When our door is open, the communication gets a lot better.  It also says that you trust the other person, and you are willing to be completely seen, without guarantees.  And that says a lot.

Our doors were built on experience, and they kept us safe at some point.  But has your life changed since your built your door? Do you need it anymore? Is it still working for you?

Imagine what would happen if you opened your door to more people, more often?  How would that change your relationships?  If Brené Brown is right, and vulnerability is the source of joy, creativity, and connection, then could our decision to be more open not only increase our trust, but our effectiveness and happiness as well?



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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