Forward thinking: Repairing broken relationships

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Have you ever broken trust with an important relationship? Perhaps it was a loved one… personal friend… colleague at work or a teammate. How did you handle it?

More importantly, did you take action immediately to repair and restore it? Or did you let the relationship rust?

If you are a leader, you’re out in front casting vision and giving direction. You are vocal and highly visible. Your words and deeds affect a lot of people. After all that is what leaders do… right?

However, whether you are a leader or not, eventually you are going to say or do something that violates another person’s trust in you. You may deliver criticism at the wrong time, speak more harshly than a situation merits, forget to fulfill a promise, etc. However, it’s not an initial misstep, but the poor response to it, that does the most damage in a relationship.

Over the years, I have had my fair share of so-called “missteps.” And as hard as I try, I have not been able to completely eliminate them. About the time I think I’m making progress, another one pops up. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have learned that there are some steps to repair trust in your relationships.

The first step is to ACKNOWLEDGE THAT TRUST HAS BEEN BROKEN.

Rust on the body of an automobile may barely be recognized at first, and it poses no immediate threat. However, if it is not dealt with sooner or later, it will cause a problem. Rust slowly corrodes metal and thus eats away at the frame of the vehicle, damaging its structural integrity.

Like a car owner who would rather overlook the rust on his vehicle than spend
time and money to fix it, we often ignore having violated trust in our
relationships. “It’s not that big of a deal,” we tell ourselves, “they’ll get over it.”

Or we delude ourselves into thinking that time will magically smooth over anything we’ve done wrong – without any conciliatory effort on our part. We can even be tempted to blame the other person’s hurtful response instead of taking responsibility for having provoked it: “They’re so emotional! They need thicker skin.”

The second step is CHOOSE TO FORGIVE THE OTHER PERSON’S MISBEHAVIOR.

Once we acknowledge that we’ve broken someone’s trust, we also have to seek forgiveness. However, if the other person has mistreated us in the past, we may actually feel justified in having let them down. In other words, harboring resentment from the past, we mentally excuse our breach of trust. “They had it coming!” we insist.

I’m personally convinced that we must choose to forgive before we will be able to sincerely work to repair trust in the relationship. People who have difficulty
forgiving others do not have a realistic view of their own fallibilities and weaknesses. By withholding forgiveness, we are operating under the assumption that we do everything right.

The third step is to ADMIT YOUR RESPONSIBILTY AND APOLOGIZE.

Admit that what you did was wrong and say that you are sorry. It may be painful for the moment, but it strengthens the relationship in the long run.

The fourth and final step is MAKE AMENDS FOR YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR.

Apologizing isn’t costly, making amends is or can be. Whenever possible, make restitution to those who you have harmed. Say you are sorry with your actions and not just your words.

One final thought to ponder…

My experience has been that life is more scenic on the high road. Be quick to a accept responsibility for the part you have played in damaging trust in a relationship. Remember, the greatest gift anyone can ever give you is not their time, energy, or effort, but rather their trust. So do everything in your power to deserve it and to preserve it.

Bottom line – don’t let broken trust rust out your relationships.

Until next time…

Loren (1)–By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is also a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.

1 COMMENT

  1. “My experience has been that life is more scenic on the high road.” Wonderful thought and metaphor Loren and obviously very true. Thank you!




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