Say This, Not That

Dear Ilana and Jess: I don’t want to get into the particulars, but I messed up. How do I repair trust in my relationship after I’ve broken it? - Madeline

Dear Madeline: Relationships are fragile things. Dishonesty may start as a small fracture, but it webs quickly. When you’re caught in a lie (or a lie by omission), the trust you’ve built with another person sustains some serious damage. But, we all make mistakes. Here are a few ways to make amends.

Start by forgiving yourself. Acknowledging what you’ve done, accepting it humbly, and trying to forgive yourself allows you to seek forgiveness from others in an authentic way. If you come from a place of reflection and honesty, you’ll be in a much better position to speak about your mistakes openly and nondefensively. If you’ve come to terms with your own mistakes, you’ll also be better able to receive criticism without it posing detriment to your self-esteem.

This is your first opportunity to set a new precedent with the person whose trust you’ve broken: take full accountability for your actions. When speaking about the incident, show remorse and make sure you tell him/her how much you value their trust. Real honesty requires vulnerability, so allow yourself to be emotionally open and truly empathetic. Try to communicate the root cause of the issue, and explain your actions without justifying them. If you downplay or sugarcoat, you’ll end up seeming dishonest and insensitive. Allow your friend, partner, or loved one to tell you how they feel and listen fully. The more transparent both of you are, the better you can rebuild trust.

The heat-of-the-moment is not the time for a lengthy discussion about what went wrong and what comes next. However, when trust is broken, it’s impossible and counterproductive to take emotions totally out of the equation. It can help to set some rules of engagement before you sit down to talk it through, to keep strong emotions in check. For example, you might agree that no one will raise their voice and that both parties will respect the other’s need to pause and step away, if that’s what’s best in the moment. If that’s the case, make sure you agree to revisit the conversation at another time. Let it simmer too long, and it will be worse for everyone.

Say This: “I want to be honest now, even though I wasn’t before. I’m really sorry that I wasn’t truthful about ____. There’s no excuse, and that’s not how a friend/partner should act. I understand if you need some time, but I’d like to make it up to you.”

Not That: “Well, what would you like me to say?”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit:


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