Trust holds relationships together, but sometimes the bonds unravel. That can happen after any breach in trust; a romantic partner having an affair, a business partner stealing the company funds, your siblings turning their back on you in your darkest hours…you get the idea.
Even if you avoid what you’d consider a major betrayal, you’re still likely to run into a coworker who talks behind your back, a friend who shares your secret, or a colleague who breaks a promise.
Trust can be rebuilt, but it takes work. Consider these strategies for what to do when you let others down or feel like you’ve been deceived.
What to Do When You Damage the Trust
- Apologize sincerely. Express your regret for what you did and acknowledge the impact that your actions had on others’ lives. Resist the urge to make excuses, and listen to what the other person has to say even if it’s uncomfortable to hear. Imagine someone else doing or saying the things that you did to cause the pain and use deep empathy to understand what they’re feeling as best as you can.
- Own it. Take 100% complete and total responsibility for your words or actions. First, it’s how you take your power back so that you can prevent those actions from happening again. Second, by taking responsibility, you’re preventing the issue from escalating even further by sparing the person you hurt from having to explain why what you did hurt them.
- Make amends. Back up your words with concrete actions. A good start may include breaking total contact with an affair partner, offering financial compensation if you took money that wasn’t yours, or making a public statement about your part in the situation. While that’s a good start, if you’ve been given an opportunity to make amends, use the opportunity to be sure to let your actions speak louder than your words.
- Change your behavior. Avoiding a repeat performance is usually the most effective way to demonstrate your remorse. You’ll need to understand what you did and create new habits that keep you from going down that path again. While betrayal is traumatic enough to the person who believed in and trusted in you, doing it again is mind-blowingly painful to the person who is desperately trying to regain their footing. It’s an incredibly fragile time and there’s no room in the betrayed person’s mind and heart for another assault as they do the work to heal physically, mentally and…