Three Assumptions to Promote Trust

At the suggestion of my friend George, I am reading Chade-Meng Tan’ Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success.

Meng is an engineer who works at Google. Having become interested in what mindfulness can bring to a work situation, he developed a course at Google called Search Inside Yourself, a course designed to help people develop their emotional intelligence with the goal of becoming happier and more successful.

There are a number of things I might quibble with Meng over. But, for the most part, I think he does a wonderful job of both helping people understand why mindfulness meditation is useful and providing clear instructions for a number of meditation techniques. Although my own meditation has the aim of deepening my relationship with God and my ability to live a life of Christian discipleship, I have always said that everyone can benefit from mindfulness meditation, regardless of their religious affiliation or, indeed, whether they are religious at all.

One of the things I particularly like about Meng’s approach is that he combines formal meditation practices with suggestions for how one can engage in informal practices that utilize the insights from the formal practices in day to day situations (something I try to do in my own forthcoming meditation book).

One of Meng’s subjects that has to do with our ability to work with others is the importance of establishing trust. Absent trust, people feel the need to protect themselves from each other and are unwilling to have productive debates because of a fear of conflict.

Meng uses a simple approach to promote a greater sense of trust. He writes that when he chairs a meeting, he invites everyone to make three assumptions about everyone else in the room:

1. Assume that everyone in this room is here to serve the greater good, until proven otherwise.
2. Given the above assumption, we therefore assume that none of us has any hidden agenda, until proven otherwise.
3. Given the above assumption, we therefore assume that we are all reasonable even when we disagree, until proven otherwise.

The value of his suggestions in a work situation is self-evident. But it also seems clear to me that this advice has value and application outside of business meetings.

Just think about what our political and public discourse might look like if we all approached each other with these assumptions. Why not give it a try?