I was infuriated, disappointed and grossly betrayed, so much that I made a vow. What else can make me feel this way than matters of trust and mistrust?
Trust, they say, “takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair”, but how true is this statement? You know what I think? I think it takes more than seconds to break trust. You will also find out about this soon.
Trust is one important commodity for all relationships, the importance of which cannot be over-emphasized. But what are the ways through which trust can be lost?
How Is Trust Lost?
Losing trust doesn’t always come in one simple way. I’ve got two ways through which a loss of trust can arise in every place or organization, etc.
- Sometimes, people are too untrusting to trust anyone. So, the trust is already lost de novo, even without any actions to warrant a mistrust.
- Someone trusts you so much, but you ended up betraying their trust by your actions or inactions. This is quite the notoriously obnoxious one.
So, I worked up a scheme to use the list above as my template for talking about how trust can be repaired when it is lost, especially after seeing that the mechanisms of losing trust are also important.
I once worked with a boss who was too scared to trust anyone, so to speak. No matter how trustworthy I had proven myself to be, he still questioned me about business finances with an air of mistrust. It is understandable that you should not trust blindly in business, but trust is still one important currency in business. How did this affect me?
Despite how open and straightforward I was, my boss treated me with significant mistrust. I felt bad and disappointed but what happened next, I’m still amazed about. After several attempts to build trust, an show him how trustworthy I am, I knew it was time to give up trying. So, I distanced myself from everything that has to do with his financial management, sales and acquisition of products, and I also kept my official distance with him, such that, I refused to answer too personal questions as he would normally ask, but I continued my normal daily duties. This happened for days and the result was to my amazement.
He noticed that I had distanced myself so much and I was ready to keep doing it. And why was it so? I had tried so hard to gain his trust, even when I didn’t do anything to deserve such mistrust from him. So when he noticed, he realized he had been wrong all along, and he had decided to make amends. He later promoted me to a higher level of responsibility, left big sums at my possessions and even tried to re-initiate the personal relationship we once had.
Sometimes, what it takes to build trust is to simply stay away. Trustworthy people do not try too hard to show that they are indeed trustworthy. Because the more you try, the more you appear to be pretending and ingenuine. So that goes for the first level of mistrust I talked about - when you are trustworthy and you know that, but someone or some organization just won’t give you the level of trust you deserve. Can we talk about the stages of trust briefly?
Stages of Trust
I believe trust has various stages in every relationship, be it business, emotional, political relationships and others.
In this categorization, I am going to discuss the transition stages trust must evolve through, and these are as follows:
- Beginning Stage: The beginning stage is the compromise stage, it is when you deposit on someone a level of trust that they have not yet earned. For sake of simplicity, I want to say that if you must ultimately find someone you can trust, or if you want to know who is trustworthy or not, you must first allow them enter in through this stage, usually with something you can afford to lose without no 'significant' regrets.
- Middle Stage: This is when someone you have trusted is getting along well with you. The importance of this stage is seen in the fact that sometimes, people will not act out their true nature until they have become so acquainted with you. So, you let them graduate to this level and then keep studying their trustworthiness. If they prove themselves, then they can go on to the next level, which is the penultimate stage.
- Penultimate Stage: When we say trust takes time to build, we are not just mincing words. Getting to this stage can require such a long time, many years. The goal is to attain the ultimate stage of trust. In this penultimate stage, only some very valuable objects have not been entrusted to you. When you attain the ultimate stage of trust with someone, they can even entrust you with their entire life because you have proven it to them.
- Ultimate Stage: The ultimate stage of trust is attained when an individual or organization has been found to be trustworthy over a very long time. At this stage, the trust level is almost unlimited.
It is important to note that fallout can occur at any stage, and this may refers to a loss of trust, or betrayal of trust. The effects of fallout are worse in advanced stages of trust than if the betrayal of trust occurred at a much earlier stage.
Now, we see that trust can take a very long time to ultimately build, but any slight betrayal of trust could be disastrous and may require another length of time to repair.
Mistrust Due To One's Actions
At this point, we are quite ready to explore the second way through which trust can be lost; that is, when you betray someone's trust. This can come in various ways including deceit, lying, exposure of the secrets they shared with you or using what you know about them against them. This form of loss of trust is the commonest type in business organizations and partnerships, politics, and international relations, and all other settings involving human relationships, including emotional relationships. It is therefore imperative to understand and devise ways to restore trust once it is lost via this mechanism.
How To Regain Trust After Losing It
How can we repair trust when it is lost? Even better asked this way; can trust be repaired when it is lost? Here are some ways to regain trust with someone after losing it:
- Understand the effect of time on trust
- Make amends and tender an apology
- Accept the consequences and wait for another chance
- Understand the mindset of the person with whom you have lost trust
Understand the Effect of Time on Trust
I have met people who I vowed never to trust again, but you know what? I am human too and because of that fact, I am quite susceptible to the effects of time too. Time heals, time erases memories, time verifies truths and time restores; sometimes even relationships that are lost to mistrust. So how can we harness time to repair broken relationships and lost trusts? Repairing trust once it is lost can take as much time as it took in earning it from the beginning, or even longer. But if that’s all it’s going to take, why shouldn’t I take the chance? But by the way, that’s not all it takes. There is much more required but these are not more than what any individual, organization, or country can afford.
Make Amends And Tender An Apology
I have an immediate elder sister who I confided in with information concerning some of my intimate and personal affairs. Then, one day, I told her about my emotional affairs but that wasn’t the first time I was giving her such delicate information about me, especially when she cared to ask. But surprisingly, this time she leaked all that information I considered private and personal to someone she thought she could trust, who later leaked them to other people I never expected. This made me so infuriated, disappointed and grossly betrayed, but I didn’t confront her, instead, I learnt my lessons. The outcomes of the misused information cause severance of my relationship with my girlfriend at that time, but things were soon back to normal. Then, about a week’s later, she placed a call to me, knowing well what my resolve was, then she apologized remorsefully about misusing the information. She also explained why it went that way and I understood. I listened quietly and replied "I have heard", but what did I do thereafter?
Didn't I mention that regaining trust can take some time? For some time, I kept my emotional secrets away from her, but deep down, I knew I was never going to tell her or anyone else such secrets again. So, how did she repair the trust gap that had been created?
Sometimes, simply righting the wrongs and patiently waiting on the other person for another chance is just enough.
Accept The Consequences and Wait For Another Chance
We live in a world where everyone wants it all to themselves. Most people seem to forget that ‘you cannot eat your cake and have it whole again’. But that’s what most people sometimes want after they have destroyed the trust someone had for them. When you want someone to trust you again after shattering their hearts to the tiniest possible pieces ever, it is important to do your best to right your wrongs to them, a good apology backed by appropriate actions would do. Then, you have nothing else to do than to wait for them to put you back into the track of the trust stages I described above, and at their own time.
Understand The Mindset of The Person With Whom You Have Lost Trust
According to a research done by Harvard Business Review, mindset is one other factor that can determine what happens after trust is broken. And by mindset, they refer to the mindset of the person whose trust was betrayed through deception or the likes. The experimental research showed that there were two categories of mindset in this regard – those with a fixed mindset, and those with a growth mindset. Handling loss of trust with individuals with these mindsets differs accordingly.
People with a fixed mindset cling to an initial perception about someone, such that, if they see you as untrustworthy from the beginning, it will be more difficult to talk them out of it.
Whereas, those with a growth mindset easily update their information about someone. However, after being consistently presented with specific information, probably that you are untrustworthy, they then give up on trusting you. What this means is that both people with growth and fixed mindset would ultimately lose trust for you, it only takes a longer time and number of times. Those with a growth mindset more easily accept apologies and update their perception about someone than those with a fixed mindset.
What Happens When You Break Trust a Second Time?
I’ve barely seen any human being who kept their promise of never trusting someone again. Time always has a way of reconfiguring the intent, especially if the culprit has shown that they are remorseful and that they have waited long enough. Usually, the victim would wait for some time to probably heal their damaged trust, then after some time, they would try you again with smaller things until you graduate to the higher levels, even surpassing the earlier trust they had for you. But what if, you betray their trust again the second time, what happens?
It may sound absurd but humans are built to trust. We are constantly in the search for someone to trust. But there is always a limit to everything, isn’t it? When you break someone's trust, maybe by breaking a promise you made to them or selling out their private information, they are still inclined to give you another chance of trust. Breaking someone’s trust a second time would normally elicit the same response as for the first, only worse and mixed with regrets that they should not have given you another chance. They would vow, but recall that time has a way of restoring things to default, or close to default, at least. So how many times can someone’s trust be broken before their vow never to trust again can stand? It would take me considerably more time to do this research, but from all I currently know, the more you break someone’s trust, the less their chances of trusting you again, or even giving you another chance. But even with that, the magic of time can still influence a lot.
Conclusively, two major factors to consider while trying to regain someone's trust are the influence of time on restoring trust after a noticeable change of behaviour, and the impact of mindset on how perceptions are initialized and what happens when trust is lost. You must study the mindset of whose trust you seek to regain, show that you can now be trusted, then give it the required time. My boss and I could be fixed mindset individuals, you'd never know.
Let me see what you think in the comments below.