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Trust me, I'm a fisherman...

Personal View Fiona Matheson

How do we mend broken trust?

With three steps forward and perhaps one going back says Tammi Lenski

  • Accept that both parties have at some point probably been mistaken or in the wrong.

  • Let go of blame.

  • Shut the door on the arguments of the past.

  • Draw a line.

  • Start anew with the intention of acting truthfully and being trusting.

It's not easy.

Think of conflict zones repairing after wars.

Think of mending broken personal relationships.

Mending trust is slow and both parties will worry that they will ‘look a fool’ if their trust is abused a second time.

Throw into that fragile mix the fact that sometimes others want to wreck the trust process for their own ends and it becomes a very tricky and uncertain road.

And trust is a process not an event.

Chinese whispers and conspiracy theories ferment when there is a long and disjointed chain of broken communication, where some things get left out, some things are exaggerated, some things are twisted with the end result that whatever it was that came out of the horse’s mouth, it is a very different thing when it reaches the last set of ears.

So in fisheries let's look at how trust got broken.

  • Rules came in that came from distant places (it hardly matters where) .

  • The Rule Makers did not work with the people that had to live under the rules but instead imposed them without discussion ‘My way or the high way’.

  • The Rule Takers saw flaws, unfairness, unworkability, impossibility, bankruptcy personal, stress and financial hardship.

  • The Rule Makers did not bend as the structures of their systems made that impossible.

  • The Rule Takers split into two; those who sold up and left and those who realised that to function with bad rules they had to evade the rules and massage the truth.

  • The Rule Takers felt unfairly treated, upset and aggrieved .

  • The Rule Makers were too far away to blame, so the Rule Takers blamed the enforcers who were nearer and at the bottom of the Rule Maker’s long chain.

The take of this blog is that both parties in the Scottish trust picutre, Scottish Government and Scottish fishermen, realised at points along the way that things were not working and they were in a situation of mistrust of each other.

All were now living in a world where Scottish Government enforcers had to enforce rules they knew were not working and the rule taking fishermen knew they had contributed data that was important but inaccurate so the picture was not truthful.

So if trust is a process not and event, how does that work?

It is about testing actions, not gossip or old personal prejudices and not infecting the future with past conspiracy theories or personal conflicts.

The trust process does not have a starting gun, it begins when parties who thought they might sit in conflict with each other on different ‘sides’ realise that they need each other to make a better future.

It will happen at different times for different people or organisations depending on how entrenched their resistance to building trust is, and it may be that for some, building trust is not in their interest for whatever reason and for some, their commitment will be fake. These are hurdles in the process to be got over.

Trust builds momentum incrementally, person to person, act by act, and there will come a tipping point when the unwilling and the untrustworthy, the irrationally prejudiced will be a minority.

To help trust to develop, what is said from the horse’s mouths cannot pass through filters or conduits that might distort them, coloured by personal histories and personalised prejudices.

If government and fishermen are to work in partnership and to enter into a trust building process, direct communication one to the other, even down to the farthest flung, least connected individual is best .

Face to face is always best. Opportunities to see and hear exactly what is said at meetings through livestream or podcasts means that spin, interpretation and bias is removed.

This does not remove the essential part of fisheries representation but ensures that spokespersons’ interpretations can be validated or otherwise by members with access to the actual words uttered from the mouths of the horses.

Trust needs to be built with every single fisherman in Scotland in or out of representative organisations.

Fisheries live stream on youtube? Well why not?

The direction of travel is from the side lines, from the old tribal huddles, towards the middle.

To help build the trust process along the way and strengthen it when good things are done, like when people are listened to, that should be marked. It should be congratulated.

In changing human behaviour this is called ‘positive reinforcement’. It means that instead of say, berating a child for all the bad things they do, which makes them feel negative and worthless, you praise them for all the good things they do – even if that ‘good’ thing might be a very small thing like shutting a door behind them.

The more positive actions that are recognised and praised, the more that behaviour is reinforced. If negative actions are reinforced it creates resentment, anger and sometimes even more negative behaviour to gain attention or 'spite'.

In case no one had noticed the trust building process has started.

Take a step in building trust and send in your comments to it.

There was a time when the Rule Makers never bothered to ask…


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