Trust From The Inside Out

by  David Greer  |  Self Leadership
Trust From the Inside Out

I have had a challenging time with my left eye over the last fourteen months. It started with a torn retina that became a detached retina, which was immediately operated on, until finally a cataract developed in my left lens as a result of the retina surgery.

For over a year my vision has been impaired. The cataract, first diagnosed in March, developed so fast that almost every fifteen days I could tell of negative changes in my vision.

The photo of me was taken six days after cataract surgery. You probably could not tell that I had surgery by looking at my eye, even close up. You might notice me staggering occasionally or reaching for something and missing.

These changes had a big impact on my depth perception, which in turn impacted my balance. As I lost more and more of the vision in my left eye, I was left only being able to see smudges of color with my left eye.

The Inside & The Outside Are Different

Thankfully, I can see shapes and colors once again with my left eye. Due to damage to my retina, I’ll likely never regain full vision, but with a new eye glass prescription I hope to be able to see much more than I have for the last year. With my vision stabilized, my brain will once again recover my depth perception and balance.

What does this have to do with you? Most of the time, we judge people by what we see on the outside. We look at the way they walk, talk, interact, appear to us, and a myriad of other “clues” which we assume tell us what is going on for the other person.

You Have To Ask & Listen

In my case, there were few, if any clues, about what I was experiencing by observing me from the outside. The only way to know was to ask me and then listen to my answer.

To really hear what someone tells us about what they are experiencing, we need to deeply listen to what they are saying. This includes the emotional content of what they are prepared to share with us. People only share their feelings to the point that they feel that we have been vulnerable with them.

Part of my sharing my story about what has been happening inside me with my eye and surgeries, is so that you can know that it has been scary, uncomfortable, required me to let go the outcome and trust the process, while also acknowledging to myself and others the massive impact my lost eye sight has had on my energy levels and perception of the world.

The Group Dynamic

In team settings, we often only know our coworkers by their work context. This is not enough to build the trust that is needed to truly allow other people to share what is going on inside for them.

You too can be vulnerable. Find group settings where you and your team can do one of these exercises to really get to know the true person you are and those you work with:

  • Paper Bag – Ask team members to bring a paper lunch bag filled with three things from home that represent important aspects of their life. Go around the table getting each person to pull each thing from their bag one at a time and tell a story about why each is important to them.
  • Life Line – Ask each team member to create a graph and using two colors go as far back as they remember marking their satisfaction over time with personal and work/school experiences (highs and lows) in their life (this should take five minutes or less). When you are all together, get each person to review their lifeline, taking at least twenty minutes to describe some of their personal and work/school experiences and why they are important to them.

Trust Starts With Vulnerability

The exercises above take time, because being vulnerable and building trust takes time. If you want to create high performing teams, you have to create massive trust between team members. Then you can ask each other what you really think and are feeling about issues and get the inside story instead of just outside appearances.

Who are you going to ask and listen to today about their inside journey?
Photo Credit: Personal to the Author

About The Author

Articles By david-greer
David is the catalyst who gets you to fully live your dreams now. After time with him you feel equally scared and hopeful. Scared at the audacity of your dreams and hopeful because you have someone in your corner with the experience and desire to see your dreams become real.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jane  |  26 Aug 2015  |  Reply

This is a very relevant topic on many levels. It touches on the personal and public, physical and emotional aspects of vulnerability and trust. There are so many variations of transparency at play in as many settings. I like the games idea. Your ideas are unique. I think I could do the Paper Bag but it would take a lot of introspection to complete the life line. Great post, David Greer! And on the spur of the moment too. :)

David Greer  |  26 Aug 2015  |  Reply

I am glad that this post struck a chord for you Jane. The key to doing the life line exercise is to not do introspection. Instead, complete it in 5 minutes with those first things that come to your mind.

Debra Jason  |  26 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Thanks for sharing your vulnerability David. It’s not easy to let our guard down, probably a bit more challenging in the workplace as one might fear what others think of them. Building trust is so important.

David Greer  |  26 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Hi Debra,

Getting past our fear, especially in the workplace, is exactly what is needed to build the trust that will really let us pull together. Without trust the biggest issue is often left unsaid. We can’t work on a problem we don’t know about.

It is hard to be vulnerable. And worth it, both in our personal and business lives.



John E. Smith  |  26 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Hi, David – appreciate the personal and open tone of this post.

First, I hope your eyesight continues to improve and that you continue to display this remarkable attitude toward something that would be driving me crazy.

Second, what an impacting way to frame the message that we cannot truly know a person simply by looking at them. Most of the really interesting things that make each of us a unique person is not visible, except by inference through our actions. For example, those who have learned and practice humility do tend to behave differently than those who have not.

I guess my group therapy facilitation experiences pay off here. I have had more than my fair share of exercises, such as the great examples you share here, to help me become more open and motivated to dig beyond the obvious to learn about a person. Your story reinforces that this is essential for building strong relationships and exhibiting true and authentic leadership.

When words like “trust” and “transparency” come up in the comments, as they have here, you are reaching us on a very deep and essential level.

Thanks for a powerful midweek post:)


David Greer  |  26 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Hi John,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Like you, I have some group therapy experience which has forced me to learn to share what is going on in my insides. The challenge is to bring that to the work environment in a way that people find approachable. My hope is that the two exercises I suggested is a way to do that.

For me, I need constant reminders to not judge people by just their actions or appearance. I need to be open to asking and listening to what is really going on for them. At least to the extent they are ready to share with me.



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