A couple of weeks ago, I shared some data about trust—including that it is the most important quality people want in their leader and named the top five behaviors that undermine trust. What if it’s too late? What if you have already taken an action that broke someone’s trust—or vice versa—you are no longer sure you can trust someone? Is there anything that can be done? What actions can we take in a situation where the damage is done?
If you made a mistake and broke someone’s trust, the best thing you can do is to admit the action you took was wrong. Drop all the excuses because they will not help your case. Acknowledging that you took the wrong action shows that you have awareness about the issue; since awareness is the first step in the ability to make a change, it provides hope that this will not be a recurring situation in the relationship.
Show kindness and compassion for the difficulty you caused. Acknowledge the pain, suffering, and damage to the relationship you have caused. The worst thing that you can do is minimize the effect of your actions.
Find a way to make up for it—immediately or over time, or better yet, both. Since relationships are give and take, this gesture shows intention to do your part in maintaining the relationship.
Apologizing is usually necessary. But when trust has been broken, you demonstrated that your word is meaningless so you cannot win that trust back by making apologies or promises. Instead, take actions that show the sentiment you want to express.
Tough situations happen. This is the way to rebuild trust when they do. It takes time and patience, and sometimes a lot of it if the damage was great. But if you truly have their best interests in mind, the relationship can almost always be repaired.
On the other hand, if you are deciding whether or not to trust someone, take a look at this list. Have they done the four steps above?