It happens to us all in varying degrees; someone breaks our trust.
Trust is the belief that a person, group, or institution will act in a way that takes into account your feelings, wishes, and best interests. The reality is, that this doesn’t always happen.
When trust is broken.
A breach of trust can have huge repercussions at both a personal and professional level. Relationships can be severed, professional capability questioned and personal integrity reconsidered. It can cut deep, particularly if you thought your relationship was strong.
A breach of trust can cause us to journey through different phases, which can often align with the grief cycle.
Denial: We can initially feel shocked. Maybe we didn’t expect that kind of behaviour from that person. Perhaps even, a relationship you thought was strong has lost its connectedness. We can feel bewildered and confused by it, almost like we’re walking in a parallel universe.
Anger and bargaining: A range of emotions surge through our body and mind; upset, pain, anger, etc. We can become reactionary, whisking-off a response, a rebuttal, or bargaining for a return to the ‘norm’, or a way forward. Left unfettered, this can also turn into dictatorial or threatening behaviour.
Depression and Reflection: Once the emotional charge subsides, we are left with the reality of what happened. Your trust has been broken, and potentially even the relationship. What are your next-steps? How are you going to get through this? Where does that leave your working relationship?
Acceptance: Calling on my son’s mantra (who has just gone into his 5th lockdown in Melbourne), “It is what it is” we begin to focus on our locus of control. We regain our composure and hone-in on what is needed to move forward. This may include forgiveness, or not. What we do know, is that things have shifted and changed.
We can also find ourselves cycling back and forth between two or three stages.
All of this process can happen within minutes, or can sometimes take a lifetime, and even then, we may not ever reach acceptance.
Reflecting on the outcome.
Trusting again can be hard.
It is complex and can depend on the person’s intent, level of impact, whether they see it themselves, and our ego.
If you’re able to, seek to understand the intent behind their actions. Was it intentional or were they un-aware of the consequences or impact of their actions? Are both parties willing to reconcile and continue a professional relationship?
How much of the hurt is related to the facts, versus your emotions and ego?
What might it look like from their perspective?
If we seek trust, we also need to question how trustworthy we have been.
Next, you have a choice. How do you wish to move forward?
In his “Smart Trust” matrix, Stephen Covey speaks of four different types of trust dependent on your willingness to trust and level of analysis of a situation.
Moving-forward from broken trust, may require different decisions, depending on the situation.
If the trust has been severed irrevocably, then there are other lines you may need to go down, either legally, contractually or personally. If you still need to work alongside the person, then acting with integrity, co-operation and being cordial may be what is required. You don’t want to have to play detective or micro-manager moving forward, so ensuring you are clear on boundaries, expectations and outcomes is vital.
If on reflection, you have taken your eye off the ball and maybe given them unquestioning trust, then there is a learning moving forward around setting expectations, checks and contracts that mitigate that occurring in the future (as much as possible).
If you are able to move forward, then balanced or smart trust is required. This is trust that gives both autonomy, whilst also ensuring accountability and communication.
Time to rise.
Finally, you have a choice whether to hold onto the hurt, or let it go. If you choose to hold onto the hurt, then it can become like a poison in your blood, infecting your person and wairua. Choosing to let it go, doesn’t mean you condone the behaviour, but it does let you move forward.
Dr. Martin Luther King provides something for us all to reflect upon:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of starts. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Moving forward requires us to trust wisely, and continue to rise.