Last week, while I was facilitating a ‘Building Trusting Relationships in the Workplace’ workshop for one of my clients, a participant had an epiphany.
We were discussing how to build trust and repair broken trust.
This outspoken learner piped up about a damaged workplace relationship and the problems with the other person in it.
So I asked her this question that stopped her dead in her tracks…
I’ll share this question with you here, but let’s first talk about trust building.
Trust is hard to build, and harder to re-build once damaged
As I’ve described previously, there are many different factors that underpin trust. It takes multiple interactions to gradually build trust with great care and intentionality.
Additionally, once established, that trust requires constant care and feeding.
You cannot rest on your laurels and leave it on auto-pilot. It’s a very fragile thing, trust. It can break at a moment’s notice, and often without any bad intentions. All it takes is a misstep or miscommunication and trust can be damaged.
Once damaged, it is much harder to rebuild trust. It’s doable (except in situations when it is pretty much a lost cause, such as when a trust-breaking behavior involved deception).
So because it’s so hard to build and so fragile, it behooves us to be ever-vigilant to avoid breaking trust. We must always mindfully tend to our relationships to build, maintain, and sustain trust.
Who’s to blame for missing or broken trust?
Unfortunately, we’re much more likely to see others as responsible for any relationship problems.
This is when we have to ask ourselves this tough but crucial question – the one I asked that learner last week:
Are you checking in with yourself first when assessing a trust deficit situation?
Here are some additional, related questions to ponder:
- What’s your part in that situation?
- How might you have contributed to the lack of trust?
- Are you wrongly placing all the ownership with the other person when you very likely have a role in where things are and how they got there?
When I asked her this key question last week, the learner fell silent.
She looked at me, bewildered, and said:
“You know, I didn’t really think about it that way before. You make a good point.”
It’s kind of like tango – it takes two.
(I know, I know, that’s so cliché… stay with me here.)
While nothing is ever ‘all or nothing’, it’s highly likely that the current trust deficit involved behaviors that came from each of the parties involved, not just one.
Before heaping all the blame on the other person, or all the responsibility for corrective action in their proverbial court, you must first check with yourself. Honestly seek the disconfirming evidence that might point to where YOU might have been wrong or unfair, what you might have done to exacerbate the situation, or how you might have contributed to the diminished trust.
Own your part. Take action to remedy it.
Be more empathetic and forgiving toward the other person. It’s very likely that they did not intend to harm the relationship.
It’s also very likely they would like to resolve the problem just as much as you do.
If you begin there, it’s still a long and difficult journey to re-build broken trust. But it’s much fairer, much more cooperative, and much more likely to yield fruitful outcomes.
So, it’s worth it.
Think about it.
What DO YOU think? Does this ring true? Have you ever experienced a trust-building or trust-repairing situation that was unilateral (just one party was to blame)? Or did you also see how both of you owned a piece of the situation and needed to co-own the work to repair?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reactions, experiences, and/or questions in the comments below!
Sign up to my free weekly newsletter and get more actionable tips and ideas for making yourself a better leader and a more effective communicator! It’s very short and relevant with quick tips, links, and news about leadership, communication, and self-development. Sign up now!