“Poverty of trust”

A very good friend of mine from Croatia (thank you, Hrvoje!) has recently invited me to an international online meeting, attended by 40 + different business leaders from around the world. The main theme for the session was the importance of building and strengthening the trust. The meeting, and in particular some of the expressions used, was quite revealing.

Whilst going through the process of being approved as a candidate in the next local elections, I had an opportunity to spend one Saturday morning with some of my colleagues, who are very experienced campaigners.

After spending a few hours on the campaign train and attending an insightful business meeting, I wonder what is the key to a successful political, business or social campaign? What is the one vital component needed to build sustainable relationships or enhance existing economical models? In my view, it is the trust, the trust, which is a “glue of life”. It is the trust, which holds relationships, helps to improve our performance and which is often called upon in the moment of crisis.

During the meeting, the speaker talked about the “poverty of trust”. I find this expression extremely powerful. I used to think about poverty purely in financial and economic terms. However, today, also because of the pandemic, we can suffer from social, cultural or spiritual poverty. Poverty can’t be defined in one way and it has a wide range of definitions.

While canvassing and talking to residents, I understood that it is often difficult to win elections without winning people’s trust. However, as we all have been experiencing in recent years, this trust is so easily lost and it is often so hard to rebuild. So what’s the answer to some of the challenges, which many of the campaigns experience, when faced with political apathy and democratic disengagement? In my view, there are a few basis rules, which can help to break “political barriers”:

  • Being authentic
  • Not being afraid to admit that there might be gaps in our knowledge
  • Being genuinely interested in people’s views, even if they are different than ours
  • Trying to listen to understand and not listen to respond
  • Trying to be the first to trust, without prejudice

I am aware that any elections, local or national, are about “winning”. Although gathering and analysing data, checking whether a particular resident is willing to support us is crucial, we must never forget that building trust is the key to an improved social engagement, better, more fulfilling and meaningful participation.

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and former councillor

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