Leadership Coach and Business Psychologist Jasbindar Singh discusses broken trust in business and personal relationships. Good relationships are based on trust, she writes. Jasbindar previously wrote an article in Legalwise News about how to build trust.
Have you experienced a betrayal of trust in a significant relationship at some stage? How did this leave you feeling? And what happened to that relationship?
Good business and personal relationships are based on trust. We like to interact and do business with people we feel comfortable with and have some degree of trust and rapport with. Where there is high trust and resonance, in time, some of these relationships ripen into long lasting friendships.
And yet sometimes – in both our personal and professional lives – we get betrayed in our trust. We can be left feeling shocked, angry and hurt as we try and make sense of what just happened and why this might have happened.
When trust gets broken, the range of reactions can vary from total shock – the common expression of “I didn’t see that one coming” to “Why me?” or as another client put it, “I had a strange feeling that things were not quite stacking up but I just didn’t have the evidence so gave the person the benefit of the doubt but with disastrous consequences. Now I would never do that and would instead slow the process down, buy more time and do rigorous due diligence.”
Why does trust matter so much?
What is this intangible concept called trust and why does it matter so much?
Trust is the lifeblood of all relationship – business or personal. It is the foundation of all mutually satisfying and sustainable long-term relationships. More than just a concept, it is also a feeling state – based on our experience of other’s behavior over time which is taken as evidence of their trustworthiness or not.
Trust is critical because it is the absolute backbone of any relationship that we can count upon. It is through having trust that we know that the other person can be counted upon to deliver on their promise and to do this more or less consistently and with some degree of care.
“If you don’t have trust, you don’t have a meaningful relationship.”
And yet trust can be destroyed just as easily. Talking to people who have been betrayed whether in personal or business relationships, a common hindsight was that if they had looked closely enough the signs were there but they chose to ignore and overlook it. They silenced that small voice which kept raising the red flag. As one person said, “I guess, I just was not ready to face the truth and what all that meant.”
“If we ignore the signs, we pay the price!”
In “The speed of Trust”, author Stephen Covey says one of the greatest losses we feel is broken trust. But he says, all is not lost and that challenging and time consuming as it is, trust can be re-built and restored and that one can redeem oneself and create newness. You have to learn to acknowledge your role in it, apologize, and have humility. Then, where possible and appropriate, you need to find a way to involve the person in a process of coming up with a new relationship.
Broken trust is contextual and in some instances, this just would not be the right thing to do. Only you can judge if the relationship and the person (or people) concerned, can be trusted again.
Emotional bank account
Stephen Covey uses the metaphor of an Emotional Bank Account. “Like a financial bank account, you can make deposits and take withdrawals from the account. When you make consistent deposits, out of your integrity and out of your empathy—that means your understanding of what deposits and withdrawals are to other people—those two things—empathy and integrity—little by little, can restore trust.”
Of course there are times and situations where some relationships are totally beyond repair such as where there has been fraud, manipulation and other pathological behaviour.
So what can you do?
Here are nine questions to consider:
1. Is there a business deal or relationship that you have some concerns about but which you are overriding?
2. Is there an inner nag – whose voice you are silencing?
3. Are there things you are tolerating when really you need to be calling the other party to greater accountability?
4. Are you engaging in any behavior currently which could lead to broken trust?
5. If your trust has been broken, what can you learn from it? What might you do differently now?
6. How do you stack up on the following behaviors which build trust such as being respectful, taking responsibility for your actions, being accountable, keeping your word, being transparent and attending to broken trust?
7. As a leader, how do you go about engendering a high trust culture? Is yours a high trust or low trust organisation?
Low trust organisations include the following – political games, high suspicion, hidden agendas, strong in-group/out-group culture, interpersonal conflict, cynicism and negativity, having to watch your back, silo rivalries, “what’s best for me” attitude, low levels of responsibility and accountability, scapegoating behaviour, people bad-mouthing each other while sweet-talking to their faces and a general lack of emotional safety.
Bear in mind, the late Professor John Whitney’s finding at Columbia Business School – “mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.”
8. Trust or lack of trust permeates every relationship. As an employee, business owner, manager or leader, how are you adding or detracting to the company culture and its reputation through your daily behaviour?
9. How high is your level of self-trust?
And my Australian colleague, Vanessa Hall, author of “The truth about trust in business” expresses it aptly as well – “Trust is fragile – handle it with care.”
Jasbindar Singh is a Business Psychologist, Leadership Coach, Blogger and Speaker. She specialises in leading with emotional intelligence. Contact Jasbindar via email@example.com or visit http://jasbindarsingh.com/. You can also find Jasbindar on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Jasbindar is available to speak at conferences on emotional intelligence.