Using the Mutual Learning Model to Enhance Trust

In the past, I have written about the Unilateral Control Model and the Mutual Learning Model of understanding human behavior. More recently I have writing about the trust element in working with individuals and groups. What is the impact that these two models have on the trust level in a group or organization? Is there a connection?

Obviously there is or I wouldn’t be writing about it. And it seems pretty clear that using the Mutual Learning Model would result in more trust than when we operate out of the Unilateral Control Model. In fact, when you look at the consequences of these two models the level of trust is an identified outcome. Therefore, it is pretty clear that if we want to enhance or build trust in a group or organization we would operate out of the Mutual Learning Model. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

So why don’t more people use the Mutual Learning Model or some people use it more often? One obvious conclusion is if you don’t know what either of these models is you can’t consciously use one over the other. And so we tend to rely on what we know best or what has been modeled to us in the past. This seems to be perfectly understandable.

The more difficult issue to understand is why does someone who is significantly aware of these models and their differences, think he or she is operating out of the Mutual Learning Model, when his or her behavior is demonstrating the Unilateral Control Model. Many times, especially in times of conflict, we are not fully aware of our behavior until it is too late or we have had time to reflect upon our actions. To become fully aware and present in the moment is actually more difficult than we would think.

To become more conscious of our behavior and our actual desired outcome for a situation, we need constant reflection and feedback. We need to become more present and tuned into our feelings and body awareness. We can actually learn a lot about ourselves and use that information to address the issue at the time. We can begin to intervene based on the cues we get from our own bodies.

For example, if I am confronted about an issue by an angry person, I usually get a little frightened and a little uncomfortable and tense. If I am not aware of those feelings and emotions within my own being, I will become ego-centered and need to protect myself. I will become defensive and try to divert the blame onto someone or something else. In fact, my focus will be on me and not the feelings or concerns of the other person. When I react in this defensive manner, I am trying to control the outcome and achieve my desires or wants. Therefore, I work hard at advocating my position and not really listening to the other positions. I don’t share my intent or my reasoning because I’m afraid the others will use that against me. I try to ease into the tough issues and keep them so vague that no one can hold me accountable for my actions and decisions. And above all, I must save face to maintain my ego.

However, if I become aware of my internal cues, I can tap into this wealth of information to intervene and arrive at a different level of understanding. I start be being fully present and observing the situation to the fullest extent possible. Based on those observations and my internal cues, I make inferences about the others involved and about the situation. Because I am aware that I am making inferences, I decide I need to check out these assumptions and inferences. Therefore, I describe the behavior I’m observing and share my inference. I let the others know this is only what I’m experiencing and I need to check it for accurateness. In the process of checking out my assumptions and inferences, I explain my intent and my reasoning for my thoughts and behaviors. In this way I can engage the others in a process of mutually learning. When I’m in a learning process with others I am now free of my unconscious decisions and actions and can consciously decide what behavior I want to demonstrate. By practicing the Mutual Learning Model, I am enhancing the trust level of the group or organization.

In the next few days, try to practice being fully present and aware of your internal cues. When in a tense environment take a few deep breaths and sense where you are feeling the tenseness in your body. Pay close attention to the behaviors of others and note your reaction to their behaviors. Then ask yourself which observations to share and checkout. This will go a long way to building or enhancing trust.

Until next time, try to stay warm and enjoy the basketball season.