When trust is broken can it actually be restored?

The common belief is no. I can either trust you or I can’t. That’s how people often think about it, as a black or white issue.

It’s not.

We’ve all had experiences in which we later recognized our conclusion was based on a wrong impression or a misperception. That’s a simple fix, because you’re recognizing something that was wrong that you misinterpreted.

The tougher situations are when someone really does screw up. I promised to do something and I didn’t do it. I was out there ready to catch you if you fell, I got distracted and you hit the ground.

What then? Can you fix the relationship?

If there’s a recurrent pattern that really shows the person doesn’t care about you and doesn’t have any intention to operate from integrity, then you need to see that. You identify that as the issue and then find a way to operate around that person so they have as little impact on you as possible.

However, if there is a mistake and then you see ownership and a sense of responsibility, you have more options. I said I was going to get you this report on Wednesday at 9:00 and I didn’t. I’m letting you know as soon as I could.

My message is: I apologize and want to fix it. What can I do now?

The primary dimension here with respect to restoring trust is sincerity. Am I sincere about wanting to restore a relationship? Am I willing to apologize and make amends? Am I going to commit to ensuring you’re never impacted again in a similar way? And then, do I follow through?

It takes time and work but primarily it takes intention. And of course, on the other side it takes forgiveness. It’s a misperception that if someone has once behaved in an untrustworthy manner, they are now not to be trusted. Unless a pattern has proven itself, it’s behavior, not character.

Up next: How people feel when they hear the words strategic planning and why it matters.

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