Building Trust Again by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

Trust is one of the relationship issues that is difficult to develop but very easy to destroy. This is very true in our personal relationships, but it is also a factor in professional relationships, customer and client relationships, and in leadership roles throughout any type of organization.

Trust can be broken in a number of ways. It may be damaged or broken through failing to follow through on promises, in taking advantage of the other person, or in putting your needs in front of the needs of the people in your personal or professional life. Trust can also be damaged by failing to meet expectations or in delivering a product or service that is sub-standard or not what was needed.

How long people continue to trust if there are problems is a complex issue. Typically, the longer and more positive the relationship has been, the more tolerant people are in slight violations of trust. On the other hand, a broken promise to a new client or customer may result in the immediate loss of trust. For most personal and business relationships, significant breaches of trust can results in the immediate loss of trust, even with a longstanding relationship.

Rebuilding Trust

Building trust in a personal relationship with a spouse, partner, or even children is not dramatically different than rebuilding trust in business relationships. Keeping this in mind, there are effective strategies to use to rebuild trust in any type of interaction:

  • Acknowledge the betrayal – acknowledging the betrayal, lie, miscommunication, misinformation, or other cause of the issue is the first step. Taking responsibility for that act or omission is important.
  • Be willing to listen – the person who has been hurt by the betrayal or lie needs to be heard. Letting them speak and provide you with information on how this impacted them is critical to know how to address the issue moving forward. Do not make assumptions about why the other person is hurt; let them tell you in their own words.
  • Apologize – once you understand the cause and effect on the other person, you can provide a meaningful and specific apology. It must be authentic and honest, which means being open and vulnerable to how they respond.
  • Correct the issue – when possible, provide solutions to correct the breach of trust. Asking what the other person needs to feel secure in trusting again is a good option, but you have to be willing to listen to and consider their suggestion.
  • Communicate clearly – sometimes, the breach of trust is more of a miscommunication. Look for ways to improve your communication to provide a clear, concise message in future interactions.

It is important to give the other person time. It is also essential to recognize some individuals may not be willing to trust immediately. Building in a way for them to feel confident in interactions helps to enhance the possibility of rebuilding trust over time.