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How I Learned to Rebuild Broken Trust: The Power of the 3 A's

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

I constantly think, what if people find out I'm a fraud? What if people find out that I don't have my life squared away? What if someone I have failed, someone I have wronged, blows up my post and reveals a side of me I'm not proud of?

I have lived in fear of those moments. Fear has resulted in me sharing generic stories and attempting to motivate others to strive for better and to treat others well. Well, that stops now.


This story is about how I broke trust and failed someone. Let me start by saying that I am not, never have been, and never will be perfect. All I can promise you is that I am a man that is constantly trying to get better and learn from my mistakes.


This young kid joined the military from California and was the epitome of the "f-boi" cultural pandemic. In my career field and throughout my vast experience in the military, there has been a long line of individuals who have shaped and molded people just like, let's call him, "John."


John had a habit of giving his opinion on topics that would leave most adults in the room looking around to confirm that those in attendance heard what they heard. I remember he donated half his paycheck to a celebrity with a net worth of millions! Millions! We asked him why he did this? He said that the individual said via social networking, "they were hard up for cash."


From this moment on, I took it as my mission to help this child into adulthood. I began to search for opinions and perspectives he had actively and would counter them at every available opportunity. I had assumed that if I could give him new angles to view, he would see the validity in the opposing view, which would, in turn, help develop his worldview past the bridge of his nose.


The failure on my side? Before challenging his beliefs and values, I failed to build a relationship with John. This was a recipe for disaster. Instead of developing a relationship like Luke Skywalker and Obi-One, I developed one like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. I forced my way into his circle and demanded he trusts me! I never showed him why. I never spend time learning his trust language.


To this day, John won't interact with me in the slightest. I have even apologized multiple times. I have tried everything to build back that bridge, and nothing has worked.


Why has nothing worked? I pushed too hard against someone's true character without earning respect and loyalty. With this experience in mind, I set out to learn how not to replicate this exact scenario in the future.

 

Throughout my brief time on this earth, I have learned there is only one way to mend a bridge of trust that has been broken. The 3 A's; Acknowledge, Apologize, and Act.



Acknowledge is the first step in rebuilding the trust that was broken. This step requires humility and needs to be approached genuinely.


This step will fail every time if you are only going through the motions. You need to be able to see the breach from their perspective.


Before I built the habit of repeating back the ways I screwed up the relationship, I fell victim to apologize for something that wasn't the issue. I would offer a heartfelt apology and mean it, yet fail the relationship further down the road in the same way. This is because I was apologizing for something that was never the issue in the first place.


 

Apologies require not only the Acknowledgment of wrongdoing or misunderstanding. For apologies to be genuinely effective, you must be willing to take ownership of the outcome. This is challenging when you feel that the other party is the cause of or contributed to the issue you are discussing.

Apologies require taking full responsibility. No half-truths, no partial admissions, no rationalizations, no finger pointing, and no justifications belong in any apology.
-Cathy Burnham Martin

Rather than focusing on who caused what, focus on what happened and how you feel it impacted your relationship. If you demonstrate a willingness to take ownership of this event and move forward, your apology will be credible and effective.


 

When you've done something wrong and need to make amends, the first step is to apologize. But what comes after an apology? What actions will best help repair your relationship?


It's important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers here—the answer is whatever will help you both feel better and move on. That said, there are some general guidelines for what to do next:


Talk about what happened. It's not just about saying, "I'm sorry," but also about understanding why you did what you did, how it affected other people, and what can be done to fix it in a way that works for everyone involved.


Take responsibility for your actions. Don't blame others or act like someone else put the idea into your head; take ownership of your own choices and decisions. Owning up to mistakes is essential to building trust between two people in any relationship.


Make amends by repairing damage caused by your actions. Maybe you broke something or hurt someone physically or emotionally; if so, do whatever it takes to make them whole again: return their property, apologize sincerely, pay medical bills if needed... whatever needs doing! Repairing broken relationships takes time, but as the old saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day," and neither was your relationship. Investing time and effort into this relationship will slowly reinforce your once whole relationship.


 

So, let's recap. The 3 A's are:


-Acknowledge by taking responsibility for your role in the relationship dynamic.


-Apologise to show that you care about the other person and want to right the wrongs that have been done.


-Act in ways that demonstrate your commitment to the relationship moving forward.


When someone has hurt you, it can feel like the only way to move on is to pretend as if nothing happened. But that's just not true. If anything, it will make things worse—and leave you feeling angry, isolated, and misunderstood.


You don't have to walk away from a friendship or relationship just because one person did something wrong. You don't have to let one mistake define your entire history together. And most importantly: you don't have to let one person ruin your happiness forever!


How do you plan on rebuilding trust?

 
"Unit Next Time, Climb Together!"

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