In my previous life, I worked as a soft skills trainer for an organisation that helped people with getting back to work, and every two weeks, there was a new group.

On one occasion, I was assigned to the long-term unemployed group.

It was my first time working with people who had been out of work for a considerable time. One had been unemployed for as much as 26 years. I learned the reality of having one experience or making a decision, and you can go down the slippery slope never to return.

Naively I never realised people could be out of work that long. It was a humbling experience.

My role was to do the personal development training. I observed the effects of past experiences on their confidence and belief in themselves, the challenge of getting back to work, what it would be like.

Initially, they were resistant and obstructive, but as the training progressed, they started to open up and engage in the personal development process.

We had a good rapport by Thursday.

I had booked a trip to Newcastle, which meant I would be away on Friday, but I did not tell them. I naively assumed that everything would proceed smoothly in my absence and dismissed the importance of letting them know.

They ignored me when I returned on Monday, and I could not understand why. I was shocked.

One of the ladies in the group turned to me and said, “Morton, you betrayed their trust. These people have almost given up and started believing in themselves because of how you communicated and treated them. And then you just disappeared without a word – you probably brought back many of the beliefs they had before coming here.”

My relationship with that group was never the same.

The following week, I learned a painful lesson: you don’t know what is going on for someone else, and when they decide to ‘trust’ you, you must do your best to respect that relationship.

I did not realise the importance of letting them know.

Keeping your word in business and personal relationships is the same and a poignant reminder that trust is a fragile and essential element in building meaningful connections.

Being clear about expectations is all part of trust. Keeping a client updated is all part of trust. Doing what you say you’re going to do is all part of trust. As once it’s broken, it’s much harder to rebuild.

I continue to work on this, and that experience was a salient reminder of its importance, as a breach can have lasting consequences.