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Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.


Last year I had a really bad year. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and did a lot of things that I now regret. Now my real friends and family don't trust me, even though I am no longer getting into trouble and running with the wrong crowd. How can I gain their trust again?


Loss of trust is difficult to overcome, but it can be done. It sounds like you went through some tough times, and now you are paying a high price for it. It is not unusual for some people to experiment with behaviors that are foreign to them for a while and gradually return to their original ways. In fact, I had a similar experience as a freshman in high school. And trust me, it took a long time for people to believe that I had really given up that lifestyle.

One thing to remember is that your family and friends usually want to believe in and trust you, but have learned to protect themselves from disappointment from past experiences. If you think about it, it makes sense for them to back off and let you show them the changes instead of taking your word for it. There may have been times in the past year when your words and actions were not the same. Most people want to believe what people tell them, but have no choice but to accept their actions as reality.

I would say that the best way to earn someone's trust is to do what you say you will do. If you are supposed to be home at a specific time, be there. No excuses. In the event there is a real emergency, let them know immediately. It is really up to you whether or not your friends and family can trust you again. If it is important to you that you rebuild those relationships, most of the work will be up to you. You probably need to tell them that you are going to do everything you can to re-establish the trust and relationship you had before, and ask them to meet you halfway. That usually means asking them to at least "wait and see." Don't be surprised if you run into that attitude as you work toward your goal.

There is usually no need to make a lot of promises about what you will and won't do to earn their trust. One basic truth covers most of the things you need to work on, and that is honesty. Be honest with yourself, your family and friends. If you screw up, admit it ... you are human, after all! Making promises to be perfect can only lead to failure, but don't use that as an excuse. We all have choices to make and must live with the consequences. Your choices now should be made based on your goal of earning trust from people you care about.

Just remember, you only have control over your actions and beliefs. You can't control or change anyone but yourself. I bet your parents and friends tried to control or change you while you were going through those tough times, without success. It is no different now. If you really want to return to your old self, the one they knew and loved before the problems, nobody can control you or change your actions as you do that.

Also, you can't control whether or how soon friends and family will trust and believe in you again, so spend your energy making changes in your attitude, beliefs and behaviors. Everything else will happen in time. Be patient, people are reluctant to make the same mistakes over and over again. It may take a while ... but it should be worth the wait if you are sincere in your desire to return to your old ways and rebuild your old relationships.


LuAnn Pierce, MSW, CMSW
Author of Growing up Sane (in uncertain times)
Seminar Leader Growing Well Adjusted Kids
Editor-in-Cheif Person to Person: Strengthening Youth & Families
Telephone Counselor Affinity Counseling Center
Affinity Books & Resource Center: Your Source for Emotional Wellness


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