Gaining and building trust

Last February, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, our friend Carlo Kriekels from Denver’s YESS Institute offered a Rich TIP reflecting how the theory of the five “Love Languages” can be applied to nonprofit staff teams, boards, and colleagues just as it relates to marriage/couples therapy–where the theory originates.

Given that improving communication and relationships is critical to our work together as leaders in the nonprofit sector, here’s another TIP from the field of couples therapy that we hope might spark some thinking for you about the quality of your connections and interactions with staff, volunteers, and the people you serve.

This list is “Ten Commandments for Building and Gaining Trust” by Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson (

  1. When there is a disagreement, be curious, not furious.
  2. Apologize when you don’t listen well.
  3. Listen for what the other person means, not just what he or she is saying.
  4. Do a random act of kindness every other day.
  5. In your disagreements, tell the other person what you agree with in regard to what he or she is saying.
  6. Show up on time. Be ready on time. 
  7. Follow through and complete the tasks you say you will do.
  8. When you don’t get your way, don’t act aggressive or abrasive, withdraw, or become resentfully compliant.
  9. Own up to your part in a bad exchange.
  10. Be compassionate and listen empathetically without offering solutions when the other person is having a bad day.

This list is just one of many from the book, “For Couples: Ten Commandments For Every Aspect of Your Relationship Journey,” a compilation of wisdom from over seventy experts in the field of marriage counseling who share their relationship advice in ten parts, ten individual commandments each, each explaining in their own way why they are important to success. Learn more at

1 Comment

  1. Laura
    January 10, 2013

    Exactly what I needed today – we were just discussing the ‘blame game’ so many people fall into, at work and in our volunteer lives. Somehow email is especially unable to communicate inflection of intention, and can be mis-read. Thank you! You tamped my frustration!

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