Trust and safety are concepts that are often used interchangeably and, while I think they are connected, they are not synonymous.
For example, you may need a certain amount of safety in order to trust, but it's not essential. Many people live and work in overtly unsafe conditions and it is often the shared experience of unsafety that creates an environment of trust.
And when you last caught a taxi, bus or plane, how did you know you could trust the driver, pilot, vehicle etc enough to feel safe? Well, you didn't know, you just assumed you did.
I've been interested in trust and safety since co-directing the Be. Leadership programme for eight years. And then I saw this TED Talk by Onora O'Neill:
Switching from looking for trust in others to taking responsibility for being trustworthy yourself is a powerful reframe. Imagine a world where this was commonplace.
I think the same can be applied to safety*. We default to holding others responsible for our safety. But again, imagine if we took accountability for our own safety, physical or otherwise, and remained committed to offering safety to, rather than seeking it from, others.
We must also reconsinder the way safety and trust operate together. Being safe isn't always what we need, especially when exploring new ideas, ways of doing things and encouraging social cultures to embrace diversity in more complex and meaningful ways. To do that, we need to know we are around people who are trustworthy enough for us to feel unsafe without fear of blame or shame. We need to be able to stand strongly in our own trustworthiness and engage authentically with our own competence, reliability and honesty.
Next time you're contemplating how safe you feel, consider how much responsibility you take for your own safety and for the safety of others. Then, ask the question, "How trustworthy am I, and the people around me?"
* Please note: I am not referring to violence and other aspects of serious harm.