Nothing is more damaging to a relationship than contemptuous behavior. Whether intentional or not, words and actions of disdain can have a long-term negative effect that can be difficult to overcome. But with the right tactics and an authentic effort, rebuilding trust after contemptuous behavior is possible. In this article, we’ll explain how to bring about a sense of trustworthiness in relationships when there have been moments of contempt.
1. Understanding the Impact of Contemptuous Behavior
No one likes to be around someone who is angry, insulting and belittling – and yet, contemptuous behavior is unfortunately all too common in some professional and personal contexts. And while someone may not always understand why they’re being treated this way, the impact of this behavior can be far-reaching; morale and relationships suffer, and trust can become irreparably compromised.
Sometimes, contemptuous behavior can come in more subtle forms – such as silent treatment, eye-rolling, or sarcasm – and can still leave those on the receiving end bewildered and hurt. This kind of behavior unconsciously conveys a certain superiority, revealing resentment and contempt and creating a sense of disempowerment in the individual. For the relationship to thrive, it is necessary to rebuild trust by re-establishing respect, openness and goodwill.
Here are a few ways to go about doing that:
- Acknowledge the damage that has been done: Be willing to take full responsibility for your hurtful behavior, understand the impact it had on the person, and acknowledge that it was inappropriate.
- Identify the underlying cause of the contemptuous behavior: Was it an innate reaction to feeling powerless? Fear of losing control? Working through the cause can help identify ways of preventing it from happening again.
- Set clear boundaries: Being able to express feelings and boundaries respectfully will help build understanding and a mutual respect between both parties.
- Choose your words carefully: Watch out for triggering words or tones that may evoke contempt. By taking this step, you may find that the person will be more receptive if you choose to communicate your feelings in a respectful manner.
- Seek help if necessary: If the contemptuous behavior becomes an issue in a workplace context, it may be helpful to involve a mediator, counsellor or mentor.
Rebuilding trust is an important step in any relationship, but it is by no means an easy one. Taking the time to reflect on your behavior and make a concerted effort to reset boundaries and acknowledge the impact will help to set the foundation for a healthier, more mindful dynamic.
2. Repairing the Damage of Contemptuous Behavior
Contemptuous behavior—verbal or nonverbal communication such as sarcasm, criticism, name-calling, eye-rolling, and ridicule—can wreak havoc in relationships, leaving behind feelings of hurt, shame, and distrust. Rebuilding trust after such behavior can seem like an insurmountable task, but with effort and dedication, it can be done.
Apologize Honestly and Sincerely
- Be humble: Demonstrate your understanding of the impact that your words had. Show regret and apologize for your mistakes.
- Be genuine: Mean what you say. Apologizing without sincerity will be seen as insincere and will only add fuel to the fire.
- Be clear: Explain why you acted or spoke in a certain way and what you intend to do differently in the future.
Listen to and Validate the Other Person
Listening without interrupting when the other person is speaking is essential in building trust. Allow them to express their feelings –– validity speaks volumes about your concern for them.
Be Accountable and Follow Through on Promises
You must be willing to back up your apologies with action. Be accountable for your mistakes and set a precedent of holding yourself to high standards. Speak up when you are wrong and try to make amends. If you promise to do something, follow through. Doing what you say you will do will show the other person that you respect them and accommodate their needs.
Show Respect and Compassion
Respect for a partner goes a long way in a relationship, and communicating with respect is key to repairing any harm done from contemptuous behaviors. Refrain from using disrespectful language or allowing the situation to become hostile. Instead, demonstrate understanding, empathy, and compassion.
The effort required in rebuilding trust after contemptuous behavior may be tremendous but it is possible. Apologize, listen, be accountable, and show respect and compassion.
3. Understanding the Power of Apology
Acknowledgement and understanding the power of an apology is the key factor to success when attempting to rebuild trust after contemptuous behavior. While it is no guarantee that mistakes of the past will be forgotten, it can be the starting point for change and creating a better working relationship moving forward. Here are three ways in which apologies can bring about that change.
- Positive Action: Making an apology and expressing regret for past behaviors can be the bridge that leads to rebuilding trust. It conveys a sense of responsibility for the impact on the other person and encourages them to move beyond their hurt feelings and offense. Apologizing and taking appropriate action to right the wrong are both steps that can demonstrate positive change.
- Restores Communication: In many cases, the offended person may have held on to their resentment and shut off communication with the other party. Apologizing often helps to break the ice and can re-open the lines of communication. This in turn can identify issues that may have been overlooked and help to build a path of better understanding and cooperation.
- Rewards Respect: When someone takes the time to acknowledge their wrongdoings and make a sincere apology, it can be a powerful reminder to both parties that respect is the basis of a successful working relationship. It can help nurture a growth of mutual respect, helping to ensure that neither party will be taken for granted or treated with contempt in the future.
Apologies have the power to profoundly change the course and culture of any relationship. When made sincerely and from a genuine place of understanding, they can turn acrimony into collaboration and resolve conflicts and move both parties in a positive direction.
4. Steps to Rebuild Trust After Contemptuous Behavior
- Address the Contemptuous Behavior: The first step in rebuilding trust is addressing the contemptuous behavior that occurred. Sit down and talk to the other person involved so that you can properly establish why the contempt happened and what can be done to rebuild the trust. Be open to hearing their point of view and try to approach solutions with an open mind.
- Explain How You Feel: Express to the other person how their behavior made you feel. Once both sides can understand each other’s emotions than dialogue can move forward more smoothly without as much conflict. Try to cooperate and negotiate about how to move forward.
- Take Time to Listen: It is important to remember to take the time to actually listen to the person that you are speaking to. Show that you understand their feelings and ask what can be done in order to make the situations better. Take the time to talk through issues and try to really comprehend the other’s perspective.
- Apologize for Your Role: Admit where your part in the situation has been wrong and seek to apologize for any hurtful actions that you committed. Apologizing can go a long way towards rebuilding a relationship of trust.
- Create Boundaries: When attempting to rebuild trust, boundaries must be established that protect both sides. Make sure that both parties understand what the boundaries are, and that they may not be crossed due to the mistrust that’s present. Establishing clear boundaries can help to keep the peace and create a positive atmosphere.
- Trust Takes Time: Ultimately, rebuilding trust takes time and a concerted effort from both parties. It will not occur overnight but through honest communication, patience, and understanding, the trust can eventually be rebuilt.
5. The Benefits of Restoring the Relationship
Repairing the relationship after contemptuous behavior has many advantages. In order to do so, both parties need to be willing to work on their differences in order to rebuild the trust that has been broken. Here are five benefits of restoring the relationship after contemptuous behavior:
- Greater empathy – Building a relationship that has been damaged by contempt requires an increased ability to empathize with the feelings and experiences of the other person. This can lead to improved communication and a better understanding of the other person.
- Improved communication – Restoring a relationship requires both parties to be willing to talk and listen to each other in order to come to a mutual understanding. Developing effective communication is key for both emotional and practical understanding between two people.
- Increased understanding – By working through their differences, both parties can develop deeper understanding of each other’s experiences and perspectives. This can help to build a stronger bond and a more fulfilling relationship.
- A sense of accomplishment – Rebuilding a relationship that has been damaged by contempt requires a great deal of dedication and perseverance. Working through the difficult feelings resulting from the situation can lead to a great sense of accomplishment for both parties.
- Stronger relationships - Taking the time to work through the issues that led to the contemptuous behavior can lead to stronger, healthier relationships that are built on mutual respect and understanding. This can lay the foundation for a long-term, fulfilling relationship.
Restoring a relationship that has been damaged by contemptuous behavior is a difficult process, but it has the potential to improve communication, understanding, and communication, ultimately creating a stronger and more fulfilling relationship.
If you’ve experienced contemptuous behavior in a relationship, rebuilding trust is a necessary condition for maintaining a healthy and successful long-term connection. The steps outlined in this article can help you build back feelings of comfort, safety, and respect in your relationship. Keeping the lines of communication open and honest is an integral part of rebuilding trust, but it can also be a long, difficult process. Remember to take it one day at a time, be patient, and don’t be afraid to seek professional support if needed.