Credibility is the quality of being trusted and believed in; its also the quality of being convincing and believable. So credibility is a perceived quality. And its the cornerstone of persuasion. Without it, your audience wont commit time or resources to your ideas or proposals. So what is credibility based on, and how can you develop your credibility?
The two factors of credibility
Credibility is the interplay of two key elements: trust and integrity. Your credibility reveals itself on two levels:
- Your ideas – your ideas should be sound and make sense in the light of your environment.
- You – Are you believable? Trustworthy? Knowledgeable and well-informed?
The two pillars of credibility are trust and expertise. The more trust and expertise you accumulate, the more credible both you and your ideas become. Theres no quick way to build credibility – it will take time.
The trust factor
If your audience doesnt trust you, they will dismiss everything you say. By contrast, if you are trusted, you will be perceived as being believable, well-informed and sincere. In their book: The truth about leadership: The no –fads, heart-of-the-matter facts you need to know, researchers Kouzes and Posner reveal that a high level of trust in a leader leads to followers willing to be influenced by that leader.
Below are a few ways to build trust:
- Always keep your word – Build a track record of trustworthiness. Do this by following through on promises and commitments. Give credit to those who contribute good ideas. Be consistent with your principles and values. When you walk-the-talk, youll earn a reputation for being trustworthy.
- Put other peoples best interests first – People will more readily believe someone who can demonstrate they have their best interests in mind.
- Encourage dialogue – Listen to what others have to say and encourage dialogue. This demonstrates your openness to other perspectives.
- Show your conviction – Passion is infectious. Demonstrate your conviction that your idea is worth your audiences time. When people see your conviction that your idea is worth their attention, they will find it easier to trust you.
- Be open and honest - If you make a mistake, be honest about it rather than attempt to cover it up. People will see you as a truthful person. This is especially true if you own up to any aspect of your proposal that is weak – they will see your appraisal as being an honest one.
The expertise factor
Expertise is the second pillar of credibility. In our increasingly knowledge-based society, we rely on experts who understand the breadth and depth of a subject matter and who can communicate this to us in an accessible manner. You demonstrate your expertise when you show the judgment that proves that you are knowledgeable about your ideas and when you have already accumulated a track record of successes. Here are a few ways to build your expertise:
- Research your ideas thoroughly. Talk to knowledgeable individuals, read relevant reports, collect important data and statistics to support and contradict your idea so you are familiar with the strengths and the weaknesses of your proposal.
- Cite authorities. Support your proposal with knowledge gained from thought leaders, experts within or outside your company, respected journals and independently produced reports
- Prove your point. Launch a pilot project or study to demonstrate that your ideas deserve consideration. For example, if youre championing a new process for your department, conduct an experiment using your advocated process to generate information about the benefits of your idea.
- Use the correct terminology. Demonstrate that you understand the verbal shorthand of your industry –the language your audience uses. In networking meetings, conferences or business gatherings, listen for buzzwords. Then use them appropriately.
- Bring in an independent authority. Hire an industry consultant or a recognised expert to advocate your position. If you dont have the same high level of credibility, their credibility will enhance yours.
By building your trust and your expertise, youll build the credibility you need to get the attention and interest of your audience. Credibility is the number one key in gaining others acceptance and support of your ideas and proposals.