The New Johari Window #2: Models of Interpersonal Awareness
Specifically, I propose that the first meaning associated with the English word, “trust,” concerns competence. The second meaning concerns intentions. The third meaning concerns perspective. I will illustrate each of these three meanings by turning to an exercise—called the “trust fall”—that was very popular in the human growth workshops of the 1960s and was revived during the 1990s as a component of “Ropes” (Survival) courses. One participant is asks to stand in front of the group or (in a “Ropes” program) to step up on a platform, walk to the edge, and turn her back (as if preparing for a back dive into a pool of water). In the old 60s program, someone was asked to stand behind the trust-faller. In the case of the Ropes program, several people are asked to stand in front of the platform. The trust-faller then, as the name implies, falls back into the arms of the person or persons assigned to catch her. This exercise obviously involves the willingness of a person to trust that they will be caught by another person or group of people.
This is a wonderful exercise that often generates rich personal insights; however, the insights it generates can be a bit confusing because of the three different meanings of the word “trust.” On the one hand, the trust-faller can be falling off the platform into the arms of three people who love her and have every good intention to look after her welfare. Unfortunately, they are the trust-fallers’ three young daughters who are not big enough or strong enough to catch her. The trust-faller would probably injury all three of them and herself if she fell backwards off the platform into their arms. The trust-faller trusts the intentions of her daughters, but not their competence.
Conversely, the trust-faller could be falling into the arms of three very strong and competent men. Unfortunately, these three catchers are all men who she rudely dropped during the courtship phase of her life. All three were emotionally wounded by her rejection and have vowed to take vengeance. They would love to see her fall backwards onto the ground, breaking her back (“that heartless #$&%@*#$@!!!!”). She trusts their competence but not their intentions.