There are lots of ways to build trust with others (four, by our count) and Credibility is a big one. In our Trust Quotient research, Credibility shows up as second only to Reliability as the most favored way to build trust. (‘Most favored’ doesn’t mean ‘most effective,’ but that’s another blog, another day.)
This makes sense, given the emphasis that most business people naturally place on increasing trustworthiness by demonstrating credentials, experience, and know-how.
The risk is that we stop there or—even worse—spend too much time there. Picture the March of 1,000 Slides.
There’s more to Credibility than meets the eye.
Three Dimensions of Credibility
When thinking Credibility, we mostly think words, as in what you say and how you say it. That means that having information, perspectives, opinions, and recommendations are all important—especially for people in professional services whose very existence depends on high quality advice-giving.
But there’s more. Speaking the truth matters too. A lot. As does delivering your message in a way that makes it easy for others to understand and relate to.
Top Ten List of Ways to Build Credibility
Here’s a Top 10 list of tried-and-true Credibility builders, categorized by Credibility’s three main dimensions.
Feature your expertise and credentials:
1. Be diligent about researching your customer;
2. Know about industry trends and information, as well as business news;
3. Write about your areas of expertise—articles, blogs, white papers;
4. Host events that bring key stakeholders together.
Improve your delivery:
5. Use metaphors and stories to illustrate your point;
6. Practice your delivery so you are clear … and clearly relaxed;
7. Combine your words with presence—a firm handshake, eye contact (when culturally appropriate), a confident air.
Demonstrate your truthfulness:
8. Offer your point of view when you have one;
9. Respond to direct questions with direct answers;
10. Be willing to tell a hard truth when it’s the right thing to do—including “I don’t know.”
And as a bonus:
11. Never ever lie. (This includes tiny little white lies and lies by omission.)
This last category, truthfulness, gets at one of the paradoxes of trustworthiness: The thing we’re most afraid to say is often what will build the most trust.
By the way, our clients tell us the truth-telling part pretty much applies to all cultures. Even in Asian countries, where saving face is paramount, the Trusted Advisor’s dilemma is generally less about whether to tell the truth and more about how to deliver the truth in a respectful and culturally-appropriate way.
Credibility-Building Can Happen Lightning Fast
This expanded view of Credibility is good news for anyone new to a profession or new to a relationship. This part of trust–building your Credibility–doesn’t have to take time; being refreshingly honest can build trust in an instant.
Most clients and customers are so used to spin they will immediately take note. So you can actually leave the PowerPoint deck back at the office (or bring it as a leave-behind) and focus on engaging in a genuine, transparent, and honest conversation. Heck, you might even build some Intimacy in the process.
Take Stock and Take Action
Feeling stuck in a particular relationship? Do a credibility check. Start with the honesty dimension—it’s the least comfortable and highest payback. Ask yourself what you’re thinking and not saying, or saying to some but not to all.
Then do something about it. You’ll be glad you did.