How To Gain Back Trust That Has Been Lost

The level of trust we have with others and others have with us form the foundation of many relationships, both personal and professional.

Trust is one of those things that can take a lifetime to earn but can be lost in an instant. Reflect back on some of the relationships with others you no longer have — was trust one of the factors that affected the relationship?

Oftentimes, we are quick to judge someone based on what they say or do. Think of how we view politicians or a manager or boss — on most occasions, our perception of them is based on whether we think we can trust them or not.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is safe to say we won’t have true, genuine relationships with others if the relationship is not built on trust. As leaders or entrepreneurs, the amount of trust others have in us greatly affects our ability to influence them, and it also affects the level of impact we can make.

Many years ago while I still had a corporate career, at one time, I was responsible for ensuring our site always had raw materials in stock. On one occasion, we were having quality issues with one of the raw materials that had a six-week lead time, which usually arrived by sea freight from overseas.

Due to those quality issues, the stock we had on hand could not be used. As we were running tight inventory levels, it resulted in us having no raw material we could use. To add to the issue, our next order was not due for at least another three weeks. Having to inform customers we could not supply for at least three weeks was not an option.

I did what I could do about the situation including informing all the affected stakeholders. This particular issue escalated up to the managing director of the company, and I was asked to attend a “please explain” emergency meeting. Even though, up till that point, we didn’t have any serious supply issues, how I ordered raw materials that had a long lead time was questioned. The management team decided to air freight the raw material in, which cost the company tens of thousands of dollars in freight cost.

At that time, I felt that the trust and confidence my stakeholders had in me to do a good job was lost, even though I had a lot of experience in the role. It took me a number of years to gain back that trust, and it was an experience that was not very pleasant.

Losing trust can be a painful thing. Based on my experiences, here are five ways to gain back trust that has been lost so that everyone involved can ultimately achieve what they want with a lot more ease, and without any unnecessary stress or tension.

  1. Take full ownership of your part in the situation. Sometimes it may not be your fault that a particular situation has occurred. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we could have done something better or different that may have prevented the situation in the first place. Taking full ownership by admitting what you could have done is the first step in starting to regain trust.

    In situations where we know we have done something wrong, making up excuses or passing blame is not going to help. A good dose of taking personal responsibility can go a long way to mending damaged relationships.

  2. Tell the truth. One thing I have learned is that we are all doing our best with the awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence we have at any given time. And sometimes, we do things uncharacteristically to meet some basic need. Being able to be honest, vulnerable and admit to what we thought our actions would give us is a very powerful to gain back trust.
  3. Admit why it is important to regain the person’s trust again. People relate better with us when they know our motivation for doing something. If an incident has caused a relationship to be tarnished, those affected need to know why they should trust us again, and why it is important for us to regain their trust.
  4. Demonstrate your commitment to make things right. As the saying goes, ”Actions speaks louder than words.” The only way we can make things right again is to be congruent with our words. We must act according to what we say we will do. Ultimately our actions will influence how others decide if they’re willing to trust us again or not.
  5. Don’t expect anything in return. When it comes to regaining trust, there should be no strings attached. We must be willing to keep our agreements and come from a place of service to others. Since we have lost trust with someone, we shouldn’t make it just about us. Instead, we should make it about the best interest of all concerned.

Regaining trust will take as long as it takes. With some, it is relatively easy to regain their trust, but with others, it may take a long time, especially if there has been a significant emotional event. The key is to realise that all is not lost when it comes to rebuilding trust. It is possible, however it will require effort and commitment on our part.

Action Step: If you have lost trust with someone, commit to taking the steps outlined above to start the process of gaining back their trust.

Question: What is something you have done to gain or rebuild trust with someone?

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  • Jane Ransom

    Absolutely true, Neel! Thanks for sharing your personal story, a great way of walking the talk!

    • Neel Raman

      Thank you Jane for your comment! 🙂