I was just in Manhattan facilitating a trust workshop. Women leaders from all over the metropolitan area had rolled up their sleeves, ‘gone to work,’ and stepped into real conversations about trust.
In a powerful truth-speaking moment, one woman asked a provocative question about trust – or, rather, the lack of it:
“My colleague took credit for my work. She later apologized…but I’m still frustrated. My boss seems to think I need to just get over it. Yet, I can’t. How can I ever trust this person again?”
In our work, people ask my partner Dennis Reina I questions like this again and again. The specifics vary, but the need is the same: how can I work productively again with the person who broke my trust?
(In fact, we found the need to support healing and renewal after betrayal to be so deep we wrote an entire book about it.)
Do you find yourself in a situation where you’re struggling with broken trust? Someone may have taken credit for your work or left you out of a key decision. Or, maybe someone didn’t deliver as promised and you’re left carrying the ball.
Inner emotions get stirred when trust is broken. You may feel angry, baffled, frustrated, discouraged, let down, and disappointed.
Here are 5 concrete steps you can take – or support a friend or colleague to take – to step in and move through your emotions, release anger, and learn to trust again:
1. Understand the impact.
Trust isn’t the only thing that’s taken a hit. So has your work…and probably your life outside of work.
People tell us they have trouble sleeping when they suffer even minor breaches of trust. Their appetite diminishes. They’re quick to trigger, and may get irritable over small things. Trust is emotionally provocative. When it gets compromised, it’s painful!
While it may be tempting to stuff those emotions down, now is the time to tune in. Listen for and reflect on what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission to acknowledge what’s happened. Consider the impact on you and others. Reflect on how your work and life have been disrupted.
Opportunities that may have been compromised.
Questions and doubt that are emerging.
Listen to your inner voice. Are you questioning your commitment to the organization? Are you wondering if this is still the right place for you? Are you asking yourself if you have what it takes?
Have this conversation with yourself.
And then, consider if you’re willing to have this conversation with the person who broke your trust…in the spirit of working the issue through and strengthening your relationship, together.
You may be nervous about having this conversation. Lean in to your courage and compassion.
Choosing to be courageous and speak your truth will benefit you!
You’ll honor yourself by acknowledging your experience. And, you’ll potentially give the other person the gift of raised awareness. Let’s face it. The majority of the time, we’re not fully aware of how our behaviors impact other people. Typically, the negative impact is unintentional.
Ask your colleague if he or she is receptive to having an open conversation and to hearing your experience. Offer your intention to open the door for understanding and mutual exploration of how you can return to a place of trust.
2. Gain perspective.
Even in seemingly clear-cut cases of betrayal, there are always two sides. Open your mind and heart. Consider extending the benefit of the doubt. Ask your colleague for the ‘surround sound.’
What was at play? What don’t you know about that may have contributed to this situation? What were the mitigating circumstances? Was there external pressure, perhaps even from a situation at home?
Ask for perspective to give you a broader understanding. Make room for you both to be human and real with one another.
3. Offer compassion.
No one is served by holding onto past hurts…least of all you. Consider what you need to do to extend compassion, forgive the other person, and let go.
You, like many, may think, ‘wait a minute, I’m not letting them off the hook!’
Nothing could be further from the truth. When you forgive, you don’t let them off the hook. You let yourself off the hook. You choose yourself. You make room to move through the anger, pain, and frustration, and use your experience to learn and grow.
You let go of what will hold you back from achieving what’s most important to you.
You also make it possible for the other person to shift from shame and pain to learning and growing, too. You honor the simple truth that you are both human.
Can you remember a time when you were forgiven for a big mistake? A time when someone was let down by your behavior? I imagine you can. I sure can. We all know what it feels like to need – and get – forgiveness.
Offer the compassion you’d most want and need, if the situation was reversed.
4. Chart a path forward.
That’s not to say you move forward as if nothing ever happened. Yet, there’s a difference between harboring and remembering. Harboring traps you in the past. Remembering insights and lessoned learned propels you into the future with wisdom.
Tapping these lessons learned, lay ground rules for how you’ll move forward together. Establish roles and talk about what you expect and need from each other.
Make some agreements about how you can collaborate. Talk about how you’ll check in with one another and with others about your shared work.
Use the conversation as a mechanism to chart your course forward, together.
5. Support one another.
The best outcome for your conversation?
A fresh beginning with new perspective.
A shared conviction to leaning in, doing the work, and rebuilding a mutually supportive connection.
This outcome is possible. You can be the one to cement it. Trust begins with you.
Offer support. Ask what matters most to your colleague. What are her interests? What is his driving passion? Share your interests and passion.
What can you do to support your colleague to be successful? How can your colleague support you?
Through giving trust, you spark a cycle of reciprocity. You pave the way to receiving what it is you most want and need – trusting, meaningful, productive relationships.
Coming out of this experience, give equal attention to considering the support you need.
Ask yourself what you need to benefit and grow from the hurt and disappointment of breached trust. What parts of yourself do you want to more fully understand? What discoveries do you need help processing and making meaning of? What insights about yourself, relationships, and life are waiting to be discovered?
Where can you go to get this support and deepen your own trustworthiness?
Yours in trust,