Regaining trust is often a difficult thing that very much depends on your circumstances, but understanding where things went off course, sincerely and fully apologizing, and working hard to prove that you’ve changed are usually some of the most important steps. It’s often really difficult to get trust back once it’s been lost, and it isn’t always possible. Some people aren’t willing to forgive, and some wrongs are more or less permanently damaging, whether in personal or professional settings. Still, trying to smooth things over is almost always a good plan. The process may take longer than you’d hoped but is almost always worth the effort.
Understand Why Trust Was Lost
The most important place to start is usually to think long and hard about why trust was lost in the first place. In most cases it’s very difficult to fix a situation unless you are fully aware of why a person or group no longer trusts you. This often takes a bit of reflection, and it’s typically a good idea to think universally: think about any obvious mistakes you’ve made, but also about how the ramifications of those actions may have trickled down and caused different sorts of harm. Lying in a business report might have most immediately made your boss look bad, for example, but it might also have hurt other co-workers by discounting or diminishing their contributions. Similarly, cheating on a romantic partner might cause that partner to become angry, but also could impact his or her self-esteem for a long time to come.
Importance of Apologies
A sound and heartfelt apology is often crucial. Relationship experts often emphasize the importance of “owning” your mistakes when apologizing, which basically means that you should take complete responsibility for every aspect of your past behavior that has led to trust being broken or lost. Apologies can be written or spoken, either over the phone or face-to-face. Choosing the best venue is usually a matter of knowing the person you’ve offended and thinking about how to reach that person or group of people specifically.
It’s sometimes a good strategy to apologize in a couple of different ways, for example through a letter and in a conversation. It’s equally important not to overdo it, though. If the person or group to whom you’re apologizing doesn’t seem ready to receive your words it’s usually better to back away, at least temporarily, rather than risk sounding desperate or clingy. Not everyone is ready or able to accept an apology the moment it’s offered, so do the best you can and then give your words the space to soak in and speak for themselves.
Another way to regain trust is to prove yourself through actions and deeds. It can be very difficult to believe in someone again if it seems likely that the same errors are going to be made over and over again, and saying that you’ve changed isn’t usually as effective as actually showing it. Whatever was done to lead up to the trust being lost, do the opposite and opt for doing what the person wants you to do. If that person sees you making every effort to not make the same mistakes, you may have a better chance of regaining trust.
Give it Time
It’s generally rare for someone to immediately restore trust in you once you’ve done something to damage the relationship, which means that you may need to be patient. Once you’ve made your apologies and promised to change, the best thing may be to really live into those promises, even if it takes weeks, months, or even years. For some people, being able to trust someone else is monumental and once that trust is broken it’s going to take time to put things back together. Trust commonly builds slowly over time, and can’t be rushed or forced.
Once you are trusted again you should take special precautions to ensure that you don’t make the same or similar mistakes. In some cases it may take a lot more effort to regain trust then it ever took to get in the first place. If the person or group you’re struggling with is important, though, you should do whatever possible to make things right again, even if that means backing away for a time.