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Dear Dish-It: I Lost My Friends' Trust

Dear Dish-It,

I have this problem. I did something very wrong and even though I tried to cover it up at first I later accepted everything and told everyone sorry. That happened three months ago. Lately, I have been noticing that a friend of mine has been behaving strangely. She doesn’t talk to me much, she's not that friendly … I think my friends have a low opinion of me now. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want my friends to be against me.

Stuck up in corner

Dear SUIC,

Trust is a funny thing. For the most part it is freely given but once it is lost regaining it can be costly both emotionally and physically. Rebuilding trust once it has been damaged or lost is no easy task. It is not easy for the people who have been let down and it is certainly not easy (nor should it be) for the person who damaged it to begin with.

You say that it has been 3 months since you lost your friends’ trust. Three months is not a lot of time and it isn't really reasonable for you to expect them to be "back to normal.” It may take more time to earn it back. It is hard to accept but as the "trust-breaker" you don't get to set the timeline for fixing things. In fact, you don't get much say in anything that pertains to whether or not they will ever trust you again. Chances are that they will come to trust you again but it won't be on your terms.

Your best course of action may be to "grin and bear it.” If your friends have every good reason on earth to feel the way they do the very last thing that will regain their trust is YOU telling THEM when "enough is enough.” Take a big step back to look at what happened. Did you do something they asked you not to? Did you lie, cheat or steal? Did you do something you knew would disappoint or embarrass them? If your friends did the same thing to you, would you be mad? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes" all you can do is sit back and do everything you can think of to show them you are sorry and that you won't risk losing their trust again.

To get things back on track with your friends the first thing you need to do is stop trying to control the healing process. As I said before, you don't get to set the terms. You need to accept their anger and fighting them on it is not accepting it. Second, while you do everything you can to show your friends they can trust you again, try to understand that they are the injured party and that they are under no obligation to accept your gestures of good will. See it from their perspective: you have done something to destroy trust and now that they are mad you are suddenly a perfect angel – would you be in any hurry to go back to the way things were if you were in their place?

If things are really unbearable for you, try to initiate a conversation so that they know how you feel. Make sure that the reason you are sorry is that you lost their trust. Tell them you know you screwed up and did a bad thing. Let them know that you are sorry and that you will do whatever it takes to fix things. Tell them that you are feeling in limbo because they have not given you any indication about what they need from you in order to even try to trust you again. Then sit back and be prepared to listen to a bunch of stuff you won't like hearing. Don't get defensive and don't turn things into a fight. You damaged the trust here and you are the one who needs to deal with the fallout. Don't expect them to rush to closure in order to make you happier. You can't force trust, trying to may make it disappear forever.

If you've got a burning question, need some love advice or find yourself thinking about things like sex, depression, self-esteem, boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, bullying or peer pressure, don't hesitate to Dish-It here. Send your questions to deardish@kidzworld.com. And if you hang out in the chat rooms with other Kidzworld members who know you by your username, just send in your secret question using a different nickname if you want to stay anonymous – we promise that no one will ever know it's you. Remember: Dish-It gets a load of letters every day so it may take a while to reply to yours. Keep checking back for her reply, or watch for answered Dish-It questions that are similar to your own.

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