A reader asked:
Way to regain trust after losing it?
First and foremost, you have to accept that you might not get the trust back. When you’ve lost someone’s trust, it’s their decision whether or not they ever want to trust you again.
Nothing you do can guarantee that they will ever trust you again.
But, what you can do is work on being trustworthy. Whether or not this person ever trusts you again, it’s worth doing and will help you to treat others better and maintain good relationships.
Respect that person’s boundaries.
- If they’ve asked you not to contact them, don’t. (Not even to apologize).
- If they’ve asked you to avoid particular methods of contact (eg phone), don’t use them
Understand what you did.
- If the person wants to tell you, listen
- If they don’t, think about it on your own
- (Actually, think through it even if they do want to tell you; you have to develop your own understanding; repeating what they say and apologizing isn’t enough.)
- You can get a lot of understanding by thinking
- If there are things you can read relevant to what happened, that can also be helpful
Apologize if apologies are welcome.
- But do not do this if they have told you not to contact them
- And do not do it with an expectation that this means they will forgive you and trust you again
- Apologies can be important, but they aren’t magic
- And they’re particularly not magical incantations which make people trust you
- What they do is communicate that you know that you did wrong, and that you care about not repeating that mistake
- That isn’t necessarily going to be enough; whether it is enough is ultimately their decision
- But it’s still a worthwhile message
- And knowing that you understand what you did wrong sometimes does make it possible for people to trust you again
If you have personal demons that are making it hard for you to act ways that make it safe for others to trust you, work on addressing that:
- Do not explain this to the other person in order to deflect criticism or downplay what you did.
- They are not responsible for helping you to get past the things that are currently making you unsafe for them to be around
- But do recognize it as a contributing factor and do what you can to fix it
- Some common examples:
- Having trouble being honest about your boundaries
- Being hurt and angry when your friends don’t do what you want them to do
- Finding it emotionally threatening when your friends have significant bonds with other people
- Finding criticism and conflict unbearably threatening to your self image
- Disability shame. If you’re trying to avoid facing your disability or mental illness, it’s hard to accurately predict what you can and can’t do. It can also be hard to be honest with others, and this can cause a lot of relationship problems.
- None of these things mean you’re doomed, but they might mean you have what to work on
If you have access to a safe and insightful therapist, it might be worth considering getting professional help:
- Therapy is not a viable option for everyone
- It is also not a magical solution. Going to therapy will not, in itself, make you trustworthy. It’s one method of support that can help you find ways forward
- If therapy is not a viable an option for you, you are not doomed; you can still work on learning how to be ok and treat others right
- But for some people, therapy can make this much, much easier
- If you think that might be the case for you, look into it