Why is credibility important?
If you look at many of the persuasive people in your own life; from impressive relatives or friends to a past remarkable manager, to powerful leaders in history such as John F. Kennedy or the Dalai Lama, you’ll note that they all have one thing in common, credibility. These people earned your respect and you believed them when they told you something. Credibility is one of the most important attributes of a persuasive person because it can lead to bigger and better opportunities. If you want to be persuasive, then credibility is something to master.
What is credibility?
You have credibility when your stakeholder believes in you and respects you. The body of knowledge on credibility (and the role credibility plays in the process of persuasion) tells us that people who are trustworthy, reliable, experienced and who have good character, high integrity and a solid reputation based on objective measures are deemed to be credible by others.
I’ve been teaching people how to be perceived as more credible in their workplace for over two decades and I’ve got two pieces of very good news for you here:
1. Anyone can become credible. It’s just a matter of putting your attention to developing a variety of micro skills within each of the subcategories of credibility. I’m going to give you some great suggestions in this article to get you started.
2. Interestingly you don’t need to actually ‘be credible’, to be persuasive. All you need to be is ‘perceived as credible’. In the short term, that’s great news if you don’t yet feel you are as credible as you would like to be – which accounts for most of us mere mortals! In other words, you can fake it while you’re on the journey to making it.
How do you become credible?
People usually build their credibility over time. Here are my top 10 tips to help you fast track your perceived and actual credibility at work:
1. Build your competence
The ability to do something efficiently and successfully, that is, with competence, is one of the most important components of credibility. When someone is competent you have a strong sense that they know what they are doing, they have the runs on the board, and they know the best way forward.
The best way to build competence is to develop your proven skills and your proven knowledge. In other words, it needs to be obvious to onlookers that you have demonstrated competence.
2. Communicate your competence
Know how to talk about your competence without boasting. People who are thought of as credible are good at explaining their expertise in a way that inspires. It’s important to work out how to talk about yourself in a way that’s not arrogant or sarcastic. You don’t want to sound like you’re boasting about yourself. And you also don’t want to appear as though you’re cringing at talking about yourself and that discussing your achievements makes you uncomfortable.
It is critical that your stakeholders are aware of your competence which means it’s also an excellent idea to do the following little things:
Let people know about the study you have done and the qualifications you have gained as a result. Include your academic qualifications on your email signature and social media profiles with your job title and contact details.
Achievements and Awards.
If you have won awards or achieved professional designations, it’s important that people know this about you. Place academic achievements and awards where people can see them, on your desk, behind you on zoom, in your social media profiles.
Use client testimonials where possible. This means you might need to ‘name drop’ for example, “When I was working for Google….” Or “Bill Gates always said to me….” I had the fortunate opportunity to administer the Persuasion Smart Profile™ (my world-first psychometric tool that assesses your persuasive strengths and weaknesses at work) for a team of medical professionals in the pharmaceutical industry. This team was managed by a qualified and very experienced psychiatrist. When I’m talking about the value of the Persuasion Smart Profile™ with potential new clients I am quick to mention that my client the psychiatrist said, and I quote, “I loved it!” this adds incredible weight to my overall competence and the competence of my assessment tool.
Back up with examples.
Use examples from your past experiences when explaining what people should do, why they should do it or how you think they should proceed. And practice responding to key questions where the response you give further cements your competence in the mind of your stakeholders. For example, “We should implement SAP in modules. In my last role at Company XYZ we implemented SAP in modules over the course of a 6-week period. We delivered one module at a time and focused our energy on the individual teams who would be using that module alone. This staged roll out was much easier for the employees to manage the change process.”
Use credible words.
When speaking about yourself be sure to always imply (and sometimes blatantly use) the words such as: qualified, skilled, proficient, authority, experienced, expert, approved, trained, skillful, practiced, professional, certified. These words highlight your competence.
3. Raise your profile
It’s important to get yourself noticed for all the right reasons. I suggest that you put your head above the parapet so to speak and contribute, volunteer and generally be involved in an impressive way. Volunteer for committees, speak at conferences, even attend the opening of an envelope!
4. Find your niche and stick with it
Credible people specialise in a niche. They work on becoming an authority in that niche. You don’t need to be all things to all people, or as the saying goes, ‘a jack of all trades and a master of none’. Trying to be expert at everything will result in diluting any gains in perceived expertise that you make. And do you know what’s even better than a niche? A niche within a niche! This means it’s an excellent idea to specialise within a field and then specialise within your speciality. Over the course of your professional life make it you plan to strive to be the expert in your area of choice, your niche within the niche.
5. Spoken elegance
When credible people speak, they demonstrate fluidity, elegance, and smoothness in their speech. And interestingly, they often speak just faster than average, as though they are just that little bit more intelligent and are therefore more able to form their thoughts more quickly that the average person! Credible people give you that impressive sense that they can think on their feet no matter the issue being discussed. Here’s how you build your capability in spoken elegance:
– Remove filler words.
– Speak plain English.
– Don’t repeat yourself.
– Rehearse so you don’t need notes.
– Write out your answers in advance.
6. Resonate Vocally
We associate authority and credibility with people who have a deep, rich vocal tone. Your vocal tone has nothing to do with either how flat, or how interesting your voice is. It’s not about the highs and lows in the sound you make when you speak (that is called your vocal range). High and low is known as your vocal pitch. Instead, your tone refers to the resonance of your voice or how smoothly your sound reverberates through the resonating chambers of your face when you speak. Listen to anyone who has been to four years of acting school and notice that they speak with a rich resonant tone.
7. Stories sell
Stories help to make us memorable. When choosing stories, pick the ones that are about you and how you were involved in some successes in your past. There are plenty of other great storytelling models around. Credible people know all the models for telling a story and they use the right one at the right time to get the best results. My favourite model for storytelling is called the Magic Formula Story. It follows a simple 3-part formula called IPB (Incident, Point, Benefit) from Dale Carnegie. It’s simply where you first tell the story (and keep it short and interesting) then you explain the point of the story (i.e., what did you learn? What was the positive result? What is a summary of the outcomes?), followed by the reason you told the story in the first place or the link to the subject of your conversation.
8. Calm your farm
Yes! Credible people are calm under pressure. They don’t lose their temper, raise their voice, or frighten people. Credible people demonstrate calmness in the face of antagonism. There are many things you can do to maintain composure under pressure:
– Plan your responses in advance.
– Practice diaphragmatic breath.
9. Back yourself
Credible people back themselves. They are passionate and committed to their causes. They are confident at articulating their perspective and they don’t back down easily unless the evidence is compelling. Credible people take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with others and contribute to their favourite causes as a way of building their expertise and skills and so they feel good about themselves. One way to make sure you back yourself is to use a journal to express what you think about a variety of issues and challenges. Use your writing to clarify your thinking and refine your perspectives. This in turn means you’ll be better able to express what you mean when the time is right.
10. Commit to growth
Strive constantly to add to your back story, personal history, and experience. Take classes, read books, listen to podcasts. Become a whole person who is always learning new things and adding strings to your bow. The more interests you have, the better placed you’ll be to add value to other people’s conversations and meetings. Understand that brains and intellect are not the only things that matter when it comes to a growth mindset. Your dedication and hard work to learning new things and being fundamentally interesting in a variety of environments will make you credible in the long run. People with a growth mindset put more energy into learning than they do worrying about failure.
In summary, there are plenty of tips here to help you improve your credibility now and over time.
1. Be competent
2. Communicate your competence
3. Find your niche and stick with it
4. Raise your Profile
5. Spoken elegance
6. Rich resonant vocal tone
7. Get good at telling stories
8. Calm your farm
9. Back yourself
10. Commit to growth
Without credibility it will be very difficult for you to be persuasive. In most persuasive situations credibility is something your stakeholder is expecting from you. The aim is to plan to tackle one or more of these things each week and over the coming months you’ll see people’s reactions improve based on their perception of your increasing credibility. There’s an exciting opportunity for you to use credibility to improve your overall persuasiveness in life.
Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile™ (a world-first psychological assessment tool that reports on your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. www.michellebowden.com.au