Posts

Are You as Credible as You Think? Probably Not.

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.

An Easy Way to Increase Your Trust Quotient

ChainiStock_000002955050Small.jpgI was on the plane yesterday from New York to Seattle.  It’s a breakfast flight.  The menu has three options: French toast, omelette, or cereal with banana.

The woman next to me—healthy, casually but not inexpensively dressed, a bag full of intellectual reading material—I peg as a clear cereal-banana candidate. She does not disappoint.

When they bring her plate, it’s sugar-covered cereal—with two sample-sized boxes of raisins. No banana. Her disappointment is palpable, though not enough to make her rude.

“What happened to the banana?” she plaintively asked. The flight attendant shrugged her shoulders with that tilted-head fake smile, and said, “Sorry, that’s all they send, so that’s all we can give.”

I told her I felt her pain. “It’s not the banana per se,” she mused. “Though I do think they’re far better than raisins on cereal.  It’s just that they promised—it said so right on the menu, that I’d get a banana. And I didn’t.  If they’d said raisins, I’d still have chosen the cereal. But they promised bananas. And then didn’t deliver.”

The Trust Equation

Trust doesn’t just happen. It is the result of one party trusting, and the other being trustworthy. You can get better at trusting, and you can get better at being trustworthy. The second is less risky, and generally easier (though in the end you need to do both to increase trust).

So let’s talk trustworthiness: and let’s talk The Trust Equation.

You can break down trustworthiness into four components: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and Self-orientation. I’ve talked elsewhere about the components—how they work, which is the most powerful, frequent, etc.

For this post, let’s just stick with which is easiest.

The Easiest Ways to Improve Your Trust Quotient

Improving credibility can take a long time; gaining credentials, earning degrees, publishing, getting references, learning presentations and speaking.

Lowering your self-orientation is a life’s work—it’s hugely powerful to be able to focus on others in times of stress, but easy? Not that one.

Intimacy can actually be gained quickly: for example, learning to comment on another’s evident feelings at a moment in time. But most people find that feels risky. So, easy? Well, maybe not.

Arguably the easiest trust equation component to improve is reliability. Say what you’re going to do—and then do it. Just do it.

If you print that you’ll serve bananas—then have them to serve. If you might ever have to say yes we have no bananas, then never say it in the first place. Nobody, but nobody, wants to hear your excuses for no bananas. We just want the bananas. You promised.

Low reliability is a form of lying; lying made worse because it’s a lie of action, not just of words.

The great news is, it’s not all that hard to fix. It doesn’t take years to develop a track record. No shrinks required. And it doesn’t require all that much in the way of emotional risk.

Just say what you’ll do, and do what you say. How hard can that be, eh?

 

Note: You can take your own Trust Quotient, or TQ, by going to the TrustQuotient page.  And, starting Friday, having hit 10,000 takers of the test, we’re adding a new feature.  The core trust quotient part of the assessment test will remain free, but we’re introducing a new Trust Styles option: there are 6 distinct trust styles, each with differing characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.  We’ll charge extra for that option.  Check back with us in a day or two to explore this exciting new option.
 

Trust in the Online Dating World

The realm of romance is a source of intriguing metaphors for trust. Do people really want reliability in a romantic partner? Or is a little unpredictability a good thing? Other than the obvious, what’s the difference between romantic relationships and business relationships?

And, today’s subject—how about truth-telling in the dating world? Do you want someone who tells it like it is? Or do you want them to pull their punches once in a while?

Truth in dating: is it a good thing?

Cut to the NY Times His 50 First Dates (or in her case, 3).

Looking For a Woman He Could Trust to Tell the Truth

Poor Ron James. He joined JDate the month he was divorced, and spent the next year and a half looking for Ms. Wonderful.  Along the way, he found the relationship of Online Dating and The Truth to be problematic. To begin with, a lot of people on JDate—explicitly aimed at Jewish singles, partly as a counter to intermarriage—weren’t Jewish at all. And of course, that was just the beginning.

Over that year and a half, he said, there were women he met who lied about their age, posted photos that were 10 years old, misrepresented their jobs and pretended to be more successful than they were. “A lot of the photos didn’t look like them,” he said. “I learned to watch out for sunglasses.”

Then he met Sheryl.

At Starbucks, Mr. James was struck by Ms. Daija’s looks. Her JDate photo was taken swimming, with no makeup.
“You look exactly like your picture,” he said.
“Is that a good or bad thing?” she asked.
“That’s a very good thing,” Mr. James said. The hour flew.

Cue the violins. They married this past January.

Is Trust in Romance a Good Thing?

I was once told by a Match.com date that I was the only 5’11” man she’d met who actually turned out to be 5’11”.  That was also a good thing.  But I met many women who lied about their age, and justified it because–"otherwise, they’d screen me out."  (Which I had kinda thought was the point of having screens.  And yes, I know, we men are pigs, etc.  And yes, we lie too.)

Is the truth generally a good thing? Do we want trust in romance? Or not?

As usual, the answer is, it depends. And the real question is—on what?

Think about these trust statements:

  • I trust that my partner will be faithful—and if not, I don’t want to know about it
  • I want my partner to tell me the truth–unless it’s hurtful
  • I want to depend on my partner—but not so much as to be boring
  • I want my partner to care about me—but not to be dependent on me.

Romantic relationships are one area where we demand both truth-telling of the most intimate nature—but also the ability to hold our tongue, keep a bit of a secret, to once in a while play the Jack Nicholson role (channeling “you can’t handle the truth!”).  In the trust quotient, it’s the low self-orientation factor.

That’s what Ron James seems to have concluded:

“Every day when I leave for work, she says, ‘Drive safely,’ ” Mr. James said. “It warms my heart.”
“Does it really?” Ms. Daija asked.
“That anyone cares,” Mr. James said.

It’s generally not a good thing to subordinate the truth to other values. But caring? Well, that may be the exception that proves the rule.