Trust Gets Broken

What To Do When Trust Gets Broken

In Chronicles of a CEO by Rebecca Liston

This week I was speaking with a client about the her blog posts. I said, “Blog posts can be many things. They can be full of content. They can be random musings. But to me, they are love letters to my readers. They are full of the stories that I am living, that my clients are living, with the hopes that they will help my readers to grow, or change their perspective, or even just chuckle.”

And this week’s post is no different.

I will tell you now that this is not the easiest topic for me to delve into but I am thinking that, since this has hit my own personal radar squarely on the nose this week, it is possible that it may have hit yours, too, if not this week, then at some point.

This week I am really struggling with trying to figure out how to cope with the fact that someone very near and dear to me has betrayed my trust. This happens sometimes in life…and it happens in business. And what I have come to see is that it is not so much the actual betrayal that matters, it is what we DO with it that really counts.

What do we, as the person who has been lied to, DO with those lies?How do we manage our own emotions in response to that, and how do we navigate to an outcome that creates benefit from the betrayal?

I am in the midst of this process right now, of trying my darndest to turn this betrayal into something that will benefit me (and perhaps even the person who betrayed my trust). It is not easy. It is not fun. But lies get told and trust gets broken and we need the tools to recover. So here’s what I know to be true:

1. People lie. We’ve all done it. Some of us more often than others. Sometimes we tell ourselves that that particular lie “didn’t really matter” that it was just a “white lie” and sometimes we know darn well that even telling ourselves THAT is a lie! Lies come in many forms: bold and outright, “little white ones,” and also by omission (which is it’s own less-obvious but just as serious form of lying.) And it happens in marketing and in business (and in life) all the time. We need to understand that lying happens, but at the same time, we need to not “set ourselves up” to believe that everyone is lying all the time. There’s a fine line between knowing that something can happen, and expecting it to ALWAYS happen. So step one is to realize: people do lie. But not always.

2. Lies are rarely personal. People tell lies because of something within THEM — it isn’t really about you. It’s important to remember this so that you don’t say things to yourself such as, “Clearly he didn’t trust me enough with the truth. He must not feel I am trustworthy.” Nope. That’s not true. He didn’t trust you, that may be so, but it is because he himself cannot trust, not because you are not trustworthy. See the difference there? It is subtle, but it is clear.

3. When you’ve been betrayed, don’t spend time wondering what you did wrong. Instead, seek to find peace. Remember, lies are rarely personal. They aren’t about you or a reflection of who you are — they are a reflection of who the person is that told the lie. Because I am the sort of gal that I am, it is imperative to me that I try to understand what was going on for that person, what was happening in their world, in their head, that created the situation in which they chose to lie. This is how I begin to come to peace with it. Now, this is my way to finding peace with it. That may not work for you, but I wager it might. It’s a pretty powerful tool. And for the record, understanding why someone lied isn’t about excusing their behaviour. It’s not an excuse I seek, it is an explanation. And that is what brings peace: understanding.

4. Acknowledge and share your feelings. Being lied to is not a pleasant experience. And it’s okay to speak that truth! Tell the person who lied to you how it felt. Tell your sister. Your colleague. Your mentor. Talk about it so that you can process the hurt and the grief (if the hurt is that big, there can be a grieving process that results) and not just sweep the feelings under the rug. Suppression is not your friend. Expression is.

5. Rewrite the story. This is perhaps the most challenging and the most imperative step. When we’ve been lied to, we have created a story in our minds based on that lie. When we discover the lie, we then realize that the story we have written around it is also not true. So now we don’t have a “true story” in our minds. It is then up to us to take our new information — the information we discovered as we sought to understand why the person who lied to us did so — and rewrite the story so it matches the truth. This allows us to know that the lie won’t affect the rest of our lives or our version of history in a way that would cause us continued confusion or despair.

6. Forgive. This does not mean you have to forget. Forgiveness does not excuse the bad behaviour. And this does not mean that you must hand your trust back to this person any time soon. It simply means that you are releasing any negative impact that this situation has had upon you by letting it go. It is another step to achieving peace after the chaos of betrayal.

7. Allow your new insights to inform your future interactions. As with any situation that we allow ourselves to delve into, we will discover many things about how other people “tick” and about how we function in response to that when we really sit with and acknowledge the breaking of trust and how it came to be. The gift here comes when we take what we have learned and apply it to future situations. We can now be aware of things that may trigger others to lie. We can watch for soft signs of betrayal (avoidance of eye contact, change of cadence of speech, etc.) so we can be more attuned to the possibility of being lied to. And we can take what we’ve learned about what it is to forgive and find peace in any situation and apply it to future conflict or disagreements.

These are but a few of the key points to remember when you find yourself in the midst of a lie, no matter how “big” or how “small,” and I hope that they help you to navigate your way from betrayal to benefit just a bit quicker next time.


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Rebecca Liston helps her clients predict, pivot, and compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace. Her clients quickly uncover the root of their challenges and know the actions to take to overcome them. A six-time nominee for the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Award, Rebecca combines business strategy with intuition, giving her clients the edge on forward-thinking, elegant answers to their most complicated problems. Her clients are entrepreneurs with CEO-mindsets and executives with entrepreneurial instincts. She is based in London, Ontario. What if you could get the answer to your biggest business challenge, in one sitting? Visit to find out more.