One of my clients has a somewhat contentious relationship with a peer leader in his company, where they are both in key roles. Although they get along on the surface, during a recent coaching session, it was clear that there has been a breach of trust on both sides.
Both know that they need to fix this. The longer my client avoids dealing with the issue, it will be “the elephant in the room” as they move forward. The company is undergoing a strategic transition, and it will be extremely difficult to accomplish their ambitious objectives without rebuilding trust.
Rifts like this begin innocently enough, and then over time they can fester and get worse. Repairing a broken trust is difficult and complicated, and frankly, doesn’t always work. But without trying to fix it, the growing distrust in the relationship will gnaw at each person.
If you face a situation like this, start with the basics: identify what the real problem is. It’s usually not the first, second or even the third thing that you think about. The root of the problem typically goes deeper, and often raises issues that are personally conflicting.
It is beneficial to enlist the help of a trusted third-party to facilitate the conversation. This person should be objective and committed to effectively mediate the conversation between the two people.
Each person should identify the objective of reconciliation. When you start with the end in mind, it helps to frame the discussion so that both parties have a common goal in mind.
Don’t drag it out. When you realize that a breach of trust exists, the longer you wait to repair it, the worse it will become. Resentment and other negative emotions will consume you and magnify the problem.
Finally, when you attempt to repair a broken trust, you need to approach it fully and sincerely. If you fake it, the other person will sense it immediately and an even greater rift will occur.
Authenticity, sincerity, and a desire to move forward in tandem will go a long way to help restore trust. Approach it with this in mind, and you have a good chance to reverse and repair the damage.
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