It is a truth universally acknowledged that…. Wait, this isn’t your Pride and Prejudice summer reading flashback. I’ll start again because this is a truth. It is a truth universally acknowledged that as humans, we eschew loss of any kind. There are industries and departments dedicated to loss prevention. You can buy an insurance policy for countless things, but you can’t insure a relationship to ensure that you won’t lose it. We lose people we love romantically and platonically to death, disease, relocation, betrayal, estrangement, miscommunication, misunderstandings, etc. Is there something we can do in the beginning of relationships to prevent the latter events from happening, or to have a roadmap on how to respond if they do?
Brené Brown operationalizes trust in her latest book, Rising Strong, with an acronym: BRAVING. Each of these categories go into building and maintaining trust in our relationships. I believe that using BRAVING as a guide, you will have a firmer grasp on how to maintain strong relationships to build relationships insurance, security, and safety.
B: Boundaries. The simplest definition of a boundary is what is ok and what is not ok. The line is clear—when someone crosses the line of “not ok,” you need to communicate to them that the line was crossed. When you communicate this, you do not want to act as if the line is an electric fence, but more like a line on a dry erase board. The line may move depending on the person, the relationship, the issue, your mood. What’s important with this element of trust is that you a) recognize where your own line is and b) that you communicate that with the other person.
R: Reliability. When you commit to something in your relationship, do you deliver? Can the other person depend on you?
A: Accountability. You’re human and you make mistakes. Maybe you didn’t come through like you said you would, but you can be accountable and discuss it with the other person with grace and humility.
V: Vault. This means that we do not share information with others that is not ours to share, and they do not share information with us in the same vain. If your friend is telling you about another mutual friend while sitting at a casual lunch, revealing information that you didn’t know, this is a violation of the vault. Initially, it may not seem like a big deal. This is normal, this is what people do. However, you may also wonder if this friend does the same with her friends about you. Upholding vault is also an act of integrity and respect.
I: Integrity. In the Brené Brown world, integrity means choosing courage over comfort. Doing what’s right, and possibly harder, rather than what’s easier.
N: Non-judgment. It’s important to remain as non-judgmental as possible. Judgment induces shame, and shame unravels connection.
G: Generosity. It’s easy to assume that this definition of generosity means picking up the check at lunch. However, it means that we assume the most generous assumption of the other in our relationship—that he is doing the best he can with the tools he has.
Will BRAVING guarantee that you will avoid loss in your life? No. Insurance policies don't guarantee loss avoidance, but they provide something in return when it happens. You can only do so much to control your communication and actions in a relationship, and the rest is up to your partner, friend, parent, etc. Having a discussion about elements of BRAVING as things happen is important. It is key to address these issues before the tension builds in order to strengthen the relationship and mitigate additional fissures due to (intentionally) overlooked problems.