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    Chapter One-Establishing Your Credibility

    Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
    -Stephen Covey

    If I only had three words of advice, they would be, Tell the Truth. If I got three more words, I’d add, all the time.
    -Randy Pausch

    When you break your word, you break something that cannot be mended.
    -No attribution

    When gamblers go to the racetrack, they consider the horses’ prior performance when placing their bets. When investors buy stocks, they look at the past performance of the mutual fund or the corporation. When voters go to the polls, they consider the voting record of the candidate before casting their ballot for or against. Yes, hunches and name recognition play a part in all these situations, but over the long haul, performance profoundly affects our decisions about whom we believe. The same is true in leading, learning, or loving: credibility counts.

    Tip 1. Find Commonalities.

    People like people who are like them. And people believe and trust people they like. Try to discover attitudes, likes, dislikes, family backgrounds, experiences, personality virtues or quirks, careers, goals, or values that you have in common with others. Researchers tell us that attitudes and morals are what matter most to the majority of people. So those are the commonalities you want to emphasize. People reason that if you’re like them in one of these key ways, you’re probably like them in other ways. Therefore, they begin to transfer trust to you as friend to friend.

    Tip 2. Show Concern and Compassion.

    People tend to trust people who show concern for them. When they bleed, they want to know that others are bleeding with them. Even companies have to show concern rather than self-interest in times of crisis.

    During the Pepsi needle-syringe-tampering reports, you may recall the criticism that some expressed concerning the company’s handling of that crisis. When the public asked about the possibility of recalls, Pepsi officials fell back on logic: the cans were bottled at different plants in different parts of the country, and there was no logical pattern to the alleged tampering incidents. So, there were no recalls: a logical decision. But Pepsi received criticism not for what it said, but for what it didn’t say: some believed that it failed to show concern about public safety.

    With the more recent reports of accidents involving acceleration problems with Lexus cars, the same issue arose. The first reaction from executives at Lexus? “Let’s investigate.” The public outcry: “Show some concern, then investigate.”

    The BP oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico generated the same reaction: Outrage at the executives in charge at the time of the spill because of their public comments that showed more regard for the intrusion on their personal time to handle the accident than for the loss of life and property.

    The same sentiment is true on an individual level. People have to feel your concern before they hear your words.

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    Tip 3. Demonstrate Cooperation With Good Intentions.

    To be credible, you must demonstrate that you are acting in good faith to the best of your knowledge and ability. People must believe that you want to cooperate to help them achieve their personal and career goals. People will forgive you for poor judgment, but they will rarely forgive you for poor intentions.

    Tip 4. Be Consistent.

    “He’s flip-flopping again. Yesterday, he announced to an audience in Detroit that blah, blah, blah. Then this morning in San Francisco, he told a group that he intended to blah, blah, blah.” Politicians will do anything to sidestep that charge of being inconsistent. Inconsistency can be disastrous to a candidate, an advertising campaign, or a child.

    Have you ever been around a household with young children who have a hard time going to bed at night? At 8:00, Mom says, “Johnny, time to turn off the TV, pick up your toys, and go to bed.” Johnny makes no move. At 8:05, Mom says, “Johnny, I’m not going to tell you again to turn off the TV and pick up your toys. If you don’t obey me, I’m not going to let you watch TV tomorrow night.” At 8:10, Mom says, “Johnny, pick up your things, turn off the TV, and go to bed now! I’m not going to tell you again. If you don’t mind me, you’re not going to watch TV tomorrow night.” Johnny picks up a couple of toys and continues to watch TV. At 8:20, Mom turns off the TV for Johnny. “Here, I’ll help you. It’s time for bed.” She picks up most of the toys and gets Johnny in bed at 8:30.

    The next night, same routine. The third night, same routine. The fourth night at 8:20, Mom says, “Johnny, put away your toys, turn off the TV, and go to bed!” As usual, Johnny ignores her. Mom explodes, spanks him, and sends him to bed wailing. She’s thinking that the problem is all Johnny’s when in reality she’s trained him to ignore her by her inconsistency. Her words do not match her actions.

    The same thing happens at work. We communicate by our actions and inactions as well as our words. We communicate by which policies we enforce and which policies we don’t enforce; by what we allow work time for and what we don’t allow work time for; by what we fund and what we don’t fund; by what behavior we reward and what behavior we punish; by what we do and what we criticize others for doing; by what we ask for and what we’re willing to give in return. To be credible, our words have to match our policies, performance, and plans. Otherwise, we create a Mom-and-Johnny situation.

    Tip 5. Demonstrate Competence.

    People flock to experts, star performers, wise decision makers, and winners. People don’t intentionally invest their money in poorly performing stocks; neither do they want to invest their trust in people they doubt can achieve what they claim. To be led, either by words or actions, followers need to have faith in your competence to perform. They want to know that you can win the game. They want to know that you can finish the project successfully. They want to know that you can turn the company around. So how do leaders inspire confidence in their abilities while seeming modest and likable as people? They acknowledge their accomplishments as leaders, but avoid arrogance. Difficult, but not impossible. How? The attitude behind the talk turns the tables.

    Tip 6. Be Correct.

    Few people set out to be incorrect; it’s just that when they are missing information, they make assumptions or reason wrongly. Instead of informing, they unintentionally misinform. Whether or not people routinely ask for the source of your information or conclusions, be ready to provide it. If they ask for sources, rather than being offended, welcome such testing questions as credibility checkers. Why would people want sources for relatively insignificant information? Because we test validity on all important matters by considering the source. How do we test the source of important information? By checking the credibility of all information coming from that same source. Credibility is circular. Credibility in the insignificant breeds credibility for the significant. Once you’re caught in an error, credibility creeps back ever so slowly.

  • About the Author

    Dianna Booher’s extensive and ongoing research and published works in the field of business communication and productivity serve as the foundation for over 40 books on communication skills training . Dianna has received the highest awards in the professional speaking industry, including induction into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®. She is a member of the prestigious Speakers Roundtable. As a result of Dianna's work among top corporations on communication issues, Executive Excellence magazine has recognized Dianna on its list of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in America. Additionally, Successful Meetings magazine named Dianna on its list of 21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century! Dianna has been interviewed by Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, USA Today, the Washington Post, New York Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal Radio, National Public Radio, Bloomberg, Investors Business Daily, Fox Family Network, Reader's Digest, Working Woman, Industry Week, McCall's, Cosmopolitan, Success, Entrepreneur, among other national radio, TV, and newspapers. She holds a master's degree in English from the University of Houston.

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What Do You Mean by That?

What does your body language say about you? Studies have proven that over 70 percent of what you communicate is through your body language. What you wear, your posture, and your non-verbal actions speak loudly to customers, co-workers, managers and lovers. Learn to control what you “say” by understanding what your body language communicates. Even small talk speaks volumes about a person. This practical resource will help you shine in any situation, and even help you be the hit of the party as you come prepared to be the center of attention. Excellent nonverbal skills are a key factor in success, and this resource will take the guesswork out of how to communicate with credibility.

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