Do you have a relationship where damaged trust is interfering with your ability to get things done? In my previous post, I showed you my favorite trust hack—acting as if you trust someone until your brain catches up and starts actually trusting them. Today, are you game for something a little more challenging?

Building back trust once it has been damaged is difficult. The reason it’s so tough is that once someone has abused your trust, you feel vulnerable. When you try to protect yourself, your defensive positioning triggers the same in the other person and things spiral downward.

Expose Your Vulnerability

Instead of protecting and defending, be authentic and direct about your vulnerability. If your fate is in your colleague’s hands anyway, you are best to admit it.  By expressing your vulnerability, you are already demonstrating some trust.  And by doing so, you are handing your colleague the responsibility not to violate it.


Think of one situation where you don’t trust a colleague and they don’t trust you.  Now ask yourself how that situation makes you vulnerable.  Then share your concerns candidly and directly with your colleague.


If you want to trust someone to advocate on your behalf, but you fear they won’t represent your point of view:  “I’m uncomfortable not being in that meeting, I’m worried that no one will stand up for my customers and that some of the progress I’ve made will be lost. How do you feel about raising the customer issues on my behalf?”

If you want to trust someone to make a good decision, but you worry they won’t use the right criteria or process:  “I’m not sure of the approach you’re taking to make this decision and that makes me nervous because past decisions have been made without considering the impact on my department. Would you be willing to walk me through your decision making process?”

If you want to trust someone to stand in for you, but you’re unsure of what direction they’ll give: “I’m hesitant to send folks to you when I’m away because I don’t know if your perspective will be aligned with mine and sending mixed messages would be a real problem. How will you make sure you’re being consistent?”

And while you’re at it, use your body language to reinforce your words. Uncross your arms, open yourself up and show that you are putting yourself in their hands.

As with the first trust hack, expressing vulnerability to someone you don’t trust works by creating dissonance for both you and the other person.  If you thought there was no trust but start behaving as if there is, perceptions will start to shift.

In my next post, a few things you can do to make sure the story has a happy ending.

Further Reading

Counter-Intuitive Advice on Building Trust

Dealing with Trust Issues on your Team

How Quickly do you Trust?