Unfortunately, this is a question that gets asked way too often. It seems that many of us experience situations that break our standing trust with others.
Let’s make sure we understand where trust begins. Trust begins with making yourself vulnerable. That means that you accept the possibility of being hurt. But, because of the individual, or who they represent, we hope that good and desirable things will happen.
Trust is formed using four categories: Reputation, Intent, Credentials, and Experience. We build trust through each of these categories over time. Usually, it takes quite a bit of time to mature real trust.
REFERENCE: A previous blog posting – “Trust is Earned Based on What?”
Trust is broken because of deceit or misaligned behavior that harms us in some way. This can happen and be revealed very quickly. This is why people say that it takes a long time to build trust and only moments to shatter it.
Deceit: “The action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth” (Oxford English Dictionary)
An important difference is the one between malice and error. Did the person who broke trust make a simple error or was this planned, thought out, and then executed? Any of us can see the difference and would deal differently with them.
An example of broken trust is leaders who make promises that they can’t keep. They probably didn’t do it to be malicious. They made a mistake. A leader of character would admit their mistake and apologize for it.
Malice is another thing all together. This includes opportunistic and self-serving behaviors. Most of the time, such behavior violates stated values or established reputation, intent, credentials, and experience. Coming back from this starts with a real apology.
So, what’s a real apology? First, admit the mistake. Second, say what will be done to correct it and take action to correct the error. Finally, describe what will be done to ensure that it will not happen again.
Repetition is essential to the rebuilding process. Many folks live by the following phrase:
“One boo-boo wipes out all your attaboys.”
Repetition of attaboys, or desirable behavior, builds the trust. The one boo-boo is the action that broke the standing trust. Only repetition of desirable behavior will rebuild the trust.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer with other clients.