Individual Reflection is the First Important Step In Trust Repair
“People tend to talk about what others do. But we need to look at ourselves first.” Brenda Jones
When something happens that shakes your trust in others, the first thing to do is stop and reflect on what happened. Many people are quick to search for external causes, focus on who is to blame and stay there. That is natural. But what you really need to do first is silence your racing mind and reflect.
Depending on what happened and how deeply you feel about the situation, you may need a cooling off period. Those old adages that suggest things like “Don’t send that email when you are angry” are passed along for good reason. When people have an emotional spike or reaction to something, it affects the chemistry in the brain. It evokes the fight or flight impulse (the amygdala, or “lizard brain”) and it makes people acutely sensitive to staying alive. However, when this happens, it prevents access to the full brain and muscles because it is focusing its attention on the vital parts of the body, which, sorry to say, is not your whole brain. When people say they have “tunnel vision,” the amygdala part of the brain has been activated. The result? The emotional reaction compromises (slows down) our ability to think clearly. Do yourself a favor and go for a walk or something else relaxing to you. When the emotion level calms down, your cognitive level – your ability to think – raises back up and you should have full use of your brain once again.
In this very important reflection period, you need to explore what you are feeling and why it bothers you. You need to ask if this is your issue alone. Everyone has experiences from their past and present that shape their reactions to events. In my family, when someone was upset or angry, we would tell that person to relax. Instead of actually helping the person to relax, the suggestion itself became a trigger word that got our blood boiling. It was used over the years to placate us, imply that our feelings were not valid, or suggest that we should just “get over it.” So, if someone else tells me to relax– it has an opposite effect! Sometimes hearing that word angers me. But do I need to repair trust with this person? Probably not. The reaction is my internal experience based on growing up in my family and it is my issue.
Healthy repair of trust begins with you. It begins with your inner exploration of the impact of whatever the trigger was. So, interview the feelings that are coming up for you. It is important that you understand the background, history, and conditions that triggered these feelings for yourself. Ask questions like:
- What just happened?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What bothers me the most about the situation?
- Has this happened to me before?
- Is this my issue alone?
- Do I need to work this out with someone else? My team? Who?
After you spend time personally reflecting, consider what is happening around you that contributed to the situation. What is happening with you, and others, and with the larger group that is influencing the situation? This deeper reflecting broadens your thinking beyond how the trust violation impacted you and what contributed to it happening in the first place. There are three questions to think about:
- What did you contribute to the situation?
- What did others contribute?
- What conditions were present in the system that also influenced the situation?
Taking this time to reflect is the first important step in repairing trust with others. Take your time and consider all the possibilities of what happened – you’ll be better off for it.
…I’d love to hear from you if you apply these questions to your next tricky situation. Drop me a note.