Friday, February 6, 2009

Do you have any cred?

Credibility is critical to communication. If no one believes you, no one will listen to you.

What gives you credibility? Why would anyone listen to you or read a message from you? Where does credibility come from? We can think of at least five sources:

Title: If you send a message on stationery and sign with the title "CEO," or if you are introduced before an audience as the "CEO," you will enjoy some immediate credibility. No question about that. But, that credibility will last as long as you can hold the audience, with a compelling message and a compelling style. Stumble over your text or spell a bunch of words incorrectly in your written message and you risk your believability.

Experience: If you are introduced to an audience as a person who once broke the sound barrier in the Salt Flats of Utah on a jet-fueled motorcycle or chewed off you own leg when you were caught alone in a trap deep in the Amazon jungle, you will enjoy credibility. Or, more commonly, if you led a team that completed the Widget project a month ahead of schedule bringing it in 36% under budget, you will enjoy some credibility.

Appearance: If you have the looks of Brad Pitt or Angelina, or if you dress as if you just left a shoot for GQ or Elle, you will earn instant credibility, even if you don't deserve it. It has been said that "clothes make the person," and it has been said wisely. When your mom told you that you needed to dress well and wear clean underwear because you needed to make a good first impression, she wasn't lying.

Education: They don't call them credentials for nothing. If you look closely at that word, you will see the Latin root, "cred," at the beginning, a root that "credential" shares with "credibility." If you have the Harvard, Stanford or CMU credential, you receive instant attention and have started a clear path to credibility.

Likability: If people like you, they will believe you. Simple as that. They will want to believe you. They will give you every benefit of the doubt. This means you need to make people like you. You need to smile; you need to listen; you need to help people, instead of helping yourself. And, with likability will come trust, a priceless commodity.

So, how do you apply all of these principles of credibility? Well, for one thing,it means you consciously work at making people like you. Give up your own concerns and help others. It also means that as you strive to communicate, you make your titles, your educational credentials, and your accomplishments evident, as soon as possible in the interaction, but with humility. It means you understand how to dress to impress. If you want to work in the executive suite, buy a copy of GQ or Vogue. Do all of these things in the proper measure and you will be immediately believable. And, hey, when you have cred, you can make just about anything happen!

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