The neurobiology and psychology of trust: understanding and enhancing trust in workplaces, schools, and personal relationships (PART 2)

Bonita Sadie
June 27, 2024

The neurobiology and psychology of trust: understanding and enhancing trust in workplaces, schools, and personal relationships (PART 2)

By Bonita Sadie

Brené Brown, an esteemed researcher specialising in vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy, offers insights into the intricacies of trust. Utilising the acronym BRAVING, which represents boundaries, reliability, accountability, the vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity, she breaks down the components of trust and their function in our interactions with others and ourselves. Brown emphasises that understanding these components aids in comprehending our tendencies to trust or distrust others and ourselves, she says she uses this acronym “because when we trust, we are braving connection with someone.”


Setting clear boundaries is fundamental to building trust, according to Brown. By clearly delineating our boundaries, others can comprehend and respect our limits, fostering reciprocal trust.


Reliability, Brown asserts, is established through consistent follow-through on commitments. Whether in professional or personal contexts, reliability is cultivated gradually by consistently honouring one’s word.

For example, in the workplace, it’s crucial to recognise our capacities and uphold them to avoid taking on excessive responsibilities. If we agree to more than we can effectively handle, we risk being unable to complete tasks or delivering work of subpar quality due to an overloaded schedule. Overextending ourselves leads to an inability to fulfil our commitments and uphold our promises. Similarly, this principle applies to our personal lives. It’s important to discern when we’re too busy to take on additional plans or simply not inclined to commit to them.


According to Brown, individuals who take responsibility for their errors, offer apologies, and take steps to rectify them are the ones we trust. However, this process is only possible if we grant them the opportunity to do so. If we hastily dismiss someone or cut off communication upon their mistake, we deny them the chance to demonstrate accountability. This principle applies reciprocally in relationships. When we err, it’s essential for the other party to permit us to admit our faults, express regret, and work towards reconciliation.

The Vault

If someone divulges our personal information to others without our consent, it undermines our trust in them. Our private details should be treated as if they are locked away in a vault accessible only to those we intentionally confide in. Likewise, it’s crucial for us to keep others’ secrets and information confidential to earn their trust in return. Brown highlights how gossip often masquerades as a shortcut to intimacy, but she labels this phenomenon as “counterfeit trust.” Engaging in gossip erodes genuine trust because it breaches confidentiality and indicates a lack of respect for others’ privacy. She simplifies the concept of the vault by emphasizing the importance of respecting both our own and others’ stories.


“Integrity,” Brown says, “is choosing courage over comfort. It’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy.” According to her, integrity extends beyond merely acknowledging our values; it entails aligning our actions with those values. Living with integrity, she emphasizes, allows us to establish trust not only with others but also with ourselves.


Non-judgment involves sharing vulnerability with others without fearing criticism, while also refraining from judging them for their vulnerabilities. Brown highlights the challenge in practicing non-judgment, as we often find it easier to offer assistance than to seek it ourselves. She notes the paradox where we feel a sense of worth when aiding others but perceive seeking help as a sign of weakness. Brown stresses the importance of avoiding self-judgment for needing assistance and extends this principle to refraining from judging others in similar situations. This mutual non-judgment, she suggests, is challenging to achieve but essential for authentic connections.


Brown says that a trusting relationship hinges on assuming the best intentions behind each other’s words, actions, and motivations, then communicating openly about any concerns. For instance, if a mistake occurs, it’s crucial to address it honestly while giving the benefit of the doubt regarding intentions. For instance, someone might express hurt for not being contacted on a significant day, assuming the oversight was due to forgetfulness or busyness. This approach fosters accountability, allowing for acknowledgment of errors while preserving trust. Importantly, this principle applies reciprocally, necessitating mutual accountability and understanding in relationships.

Building on these valuable insights, part 3 will address the strategies that can be employed to enhance the psychology and neurobiology of trust.



If you would like to join our community and contribute articles such as the one above, please follow this link

Find out more about Bonita: