What is the effect of self-trust on our relationships with others?

In my previous article, I talked about how self-trust creates trust in others, and how having self-trust and trust in others allows us to face challenges and to engage in creative activities through the interplay of subjective truths.

In this article, I will talk about how having self-trust and trust in others can change the way we relate to others.

When there is trust, the relationship is horizontal, not vertical

When you have self-trust and trust in others, the quality of our relationships with others changes. It is not a “vertical relationship” but a “horizontal relationship”. This is something that is mentioned in Adler psychology.

Vertical relationships are those in which the difference between superior and inferior is consciously or unconsciously defined by some standard of status, ability, or experience. A horizontal relationship is one in which there is no hierarchical difference based on such standards, but rather an equal relationship in which both parties respect each other’s existence, individuality, and subjective truth.

Vertical relationship (Ochiai’s definition):
A relationship in which the difference between superior and inferior is consciously or unconsciously defined by some standard such as position, ability, or experience.

Horizontal relationships (Ochiai’s definition):
A relationship of equality that respects each other’s existence, individuality, and subjective truth.

As we can see from this definition, the vertical relationship is based on conditional credit because there is a judgment based on some criteria, and the horizontal relationship is based on unconditional trust.

There are a lot of good things that can happen when we can build horizontal relationships instead of vertical ones.

Horizontal relationships are based on unconditional trust, which allows us to be who we are and the other person to be who they are. And as I wrote in a previous article, mutual trust makes it easier to create new value because it allows us to face challenges and to challenge each other with subjective truths.

The important thing to remember is that vertical relationships and horizontal relationships have completely different bodily sensations. Vertical relationships include an element of conformity to external standards, and it is often difficult to express oneself in a natural way. To put it simply, there is a hurdle to “being yourself. In a horizontal relationship, we can naturally “be ourselves” and the other person can also “be themselves”.

My personal feeling is that a horizontal relationship is like a relationship with a childhood friend. Thankfully, I still communicate with my elementary school classmates through social networking sites, play tennis with them, have dinner with them, etc. Whenever we meet, I always feel a warm, safe, and secure feeling that is unique to childhood friends.

It doesn’t matter what kind of work we do now or what kind of title we have, we respect and trust each other as childhood friends. Yamada-kun, my childhood friend, is still Yamada-kun, no matter what he does or how old he is.

Some people may feel uncomfortable talking about the relationship with childhood friends together with the relationship at work.

Relationships at work are often already defined by some standard or convention, whether it is between bosses and subordinates, between departments, or between customers and vendors. In such an environment, no matter what kind of relationship we personally desire, we will need to behave in a way that does not break the already defined relationships.

In terms of the relationship between superiors and subordinates, there is certainly a hierarchical relationship in terms of work roles. In such a situation, subordinates are expected to follow the instructions of their superiors to a certain degree.

In terms of the relationship between the customer and the vendor, it is not a hierarchical relationship, but the relationship is often defined by the fact that the vendor receives payments from the customer for meeting the customer’s expectations. In such a situation, as a vendor, we are expected to meet the customer’s expectations.

Needless to say, it is important to maintain smooth relationships in these roles. However, my standpoint is that it is better to have “horizontal relationships” as well, not just smooth role relationships.

In the workplace, it can be difficult to build horizontal relationships with everyone. Even if we want to build a horizontal relationship, the other person may communicate with us on the basis of a vertical relationship. Nevertheless, I recommend that we base our relationships in the workplace on horizontal relationships based on self-trust and trust in others.

I’m not saying that everything will work out, but increasing the number of people who can build such a trusting relationship, even if it’s just one or two, will definitely lead to a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in working at the workplace, and as I mentioned in my previous article, it will have a positive impact not only on the relationship, but also on the quality of work and results.

Horizontal relationships allow us to be ourselves

Earlier, I said that when we can build horizontal relationships, we can be ourselves, and I would like to talk about this in more detail.

A horizontal relationship is “a relationship of equality that respects each other’s existence, individuality, and subjective truth,” which means that there is a sense of security in both oneself and others that it is safe to express one’s true self.

In contrast to our original personality (Character), we have a role personality (Persona) that is designed to fit into society. This is not to say that it is good or bad, but that most people have it to a greater or lesser extent.

Character:
・In Latin, it means “something imprinted.
・Your original personality
・Inborn nature

Persona:
・Latin for “mask that covers the face”
・Role personality
・Personality according to the environment and role

This is not a matter of black and white, but a matter of degree. The key is to what degree we are able to bring out our Characters naturally, and whether we don’t harden ourselves too much with the armor of Persona.

By building a horizontal relationship, we are more likely to let our Characters come out naturally and less likely to wrap ourselves up in a Persona, which makes us feel natural and at ease.

Especially for those who are not good at interpersonal relationships (I am one of them), knowing that there are two sides, Character and Persona, as well as being conscious of how naturally our character emanates, can make us feel more comfortable.

Some of you may be wondering, “What should we do if we want a horizontal relationship but the other person wants a vertical one?”

In these situations, it may be difficult to be ourselves naturally and effortlessly, no matter how much we try to build horizontal relationships. There will be times when we need to wrap ourselves in a Persona.

I would like to deal with this topic thoroughly in another article, but in conclusion, we need to “separate the tasks” as it is called in Adler psychology. It’s an attitude that says, “I don’t care if they want a vertical relationship because it’s not my task, but theirs.”

Some of you may say, “ No, it’s not that easy to separate.” However, once we get used to this sense of separation of tasks, we can come closer to the attitude that our task is to try to build horizontal relationships based on self-trust and trust in others, and that we are being true to ourselves, no matter what kind of relationship others request.

Horizontal relationships help subordinates become more energetic

Think of your previous bosses. Or think of someone you have had a hierarchical relationship with in terms of role, such as a teacher at school or a senior member of a club.

Can you think of any of these people who seemed to have a “vertical” relationship with other people, including you? Can you think of anyone who seems to have had a “horizontal” relationship with others, including you?

And how does your impression of a boss who is oriented toward “vertical relationships” differ from that of a boss who is oriented toward “horizontal relationships”? My sense is that there is a difference as follows.

A supervisor with a “vertical relationship” orientation
・The need to meet standards and norms is felt in front of the boss.
・There is an atmosphere in which it is difficult to speak up about things that are prerequisites to the standards and norms.
・There is a feeling that if I fulfill the role expectations as a subordinate, I will be recognized.

A supervisor with a “horizontal relationship” orientation
・I feel that I can consult with them about anything and can express my opinions about anything.
・I feel that I am respected as an individual, not merely as a subordinate.

What I want to say here is that from the standpoint of a subordinate, it is possible to clearly detect whether the boss is oriented toward a “vertical relationship” or a “horizontal relationship.

Subordinates who are able to sense the “horizontal relationship” orientation of their superiors will feel at ease and be able to express their individuality. They are then able to work with vigor and vitality. As supervisors, we can also absorb various opinions from our subordinates. While not all of them may be right on point, some of them may contain new perspectives that we, as supervisors, may not have noticed.

The relationship between boss and subordinate is a vertical relationship in terms of roles, but in terms of human relations, I recommend building a “horizontal relationship” based on self-trust and trust in others. This is based on the profound concept of self-trust, so it may not be easy to achieve, but our efforts to gradually approach this state will surely be rewarded.

View family as a horizontal relationship

Lastly, I would like to talk about family. As a matter of course, families have relationships that are defined by the kinship between parents and children, between husband and wife, and between brothers and sisters.

In many cases, people have their own image of what a parent-child relationship is like, or what a marital relationship is like.

In terms of family relationships, we might gain new insights if we become aware of whether we are viewing the relationships in terms of “vertical” or “horizontal” relationships.

In my case, when I am able to see my relationship with my family as a “horizontal relationship,” I am able to have a happy family life. However, there are times when the relationship does not go well when the “vertical relationship” gets mixed up for some reason. When this happens, I try to become aware of whether I am viewing my relationship with my family horizontally or vertically.

In this article, I talked about how self-trust fosters “horizontal relationships” with people, allowing us to be true to ourselves and others to be true to them.

Here are the quests of the day. (If you’d like, please share your thoughts in the comments.)

・When you look at the definitions of “vertical” and “horizontal” relationships, how would you describe the relationship between you and the people around you (family, friends, people at work)?

Vertical relationship (Ochiai’s definition):
A relationship in which the difference between superior and inferior is consciously or unconsciously defined by some standard such as position, ability, or experience.

Horizontal relationships (Ochiai’s definition):
A relationship of equality that respects each other’s existence, individuality, and subjective truth.

・What would be good for you if you could build a “horizontal relationship” based on self-trust and trust in others?

Bunshiro Ochiai

Founder and CEO of a training company, Alue | MS in Particle Physics. | BCG | Questing “What is the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management?”