Drawing on 30 years of research and experience, Drs. Dennis and Michelle Reina of the Trust Building Institute in Stowe, Vermont, have developed an approach that includes a language to discuss trust issues constructively, identification of behaviors that build and break trust, and steps for rebuilding trust and sustaining it over time.
1. Acknowledge what has happened. Own up not just to the mistake that was made, but also to its impact on those who were directly or indirectly affected. The greater the impact, the greater the need for acknowledgement.
2. Allow feelings to surface, and manage them. Find out how people feel about what happened: disappointed, frustrated, angry, betrayed? These natural feelings must be acknowledged and properly managed or they can go underground, contributing to gossip, backbiting, and the vicious grapevine. Denying the mistake, making excuses, or trying to cover it up will only make matters worse.
3. Get support. Can you share your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or colleague, spouse, coach, or counselor? Talk about what you should and should not do moving forward. Or you may want to call in a skilled and experienced facilitator to mediate the situation. This kind of support is essential in order to work through the process of healing and rebuilding trust.
4. Reframe the experience. Put the situation into a larger context by explaining the facts about what happened, how it affected people, and what you will do about it. Help those who are involved to realize they have choices.