Whether you want to advance your career, or just keep your job, credibility matters. It's a basis for trust. It determines what assignments come your way. And when things go wrong, credibility can protect you from accusations, real or false.
If you have credibility, it's easy to forget that you do. But after you've lost credibility, you notice its absence almost everywhere you turn.
Sometimes it's easy to understand why you lost credibility. Mistakes, for example, can do it. One or two spectacularly avoidable blunders can pretty much finish you off. But a string of less-than-spectacular errors can erode credibility too, if there are so many of them that they become predictable.
More interesting are the behaviors that erode credibility without your actually being wrong about anything. Here are some attitudes we project that erode credibility.
- Sometimes being believed — about almost anything — becomes so important to us that anxiety and desperation become evident. This can arouse suspicions that being believed is more important than being right. Others believe that we might even lie to ourselves and thus become incapable of knowing the truth.
- Nobody likes — or more to the point — nobody believes a know-it-all. People generally have difficulty accepting that someone can know it all, perhaps because it reflects on their own limitations. But even if we actually do know it all, others can become determined to demonstrate that there are limits to any one person's knowledge. They can do that through disbelief.
- An attitude of disrespect for truth projects a disregard for the difference between truth and fiction. Nonchalance about being mistaken can give others cause to doubt that we care about the truth of what we say.
- Uncertainty and confidence are linked to credibility in a paradoxical way. The more uncertain we are, the less credible we are. The more confident, the more credible. This seems only sensible. But paradoxically, the more competent we are, the less confident we seem. The less competent we are, the more confident we seem. Read more about this in "The Paradox of Confidence," Point Lookout for January 7, 2009.
- Ulterior motives
- When others Sometimes being believed
— about almost anything —
becomes so important to us
that anxiety and desperation
become evidentbelieve we have motives other than surfacing Truth, they tend to question our claims even when those claims are true. For example, if we have contempt for some of the people involved in the topic at hand, or if others suspect that we wish them to fail, our questions, skepticism, and words of warning will likely be ineffective, or even anti-effective.
If you think that any of these factors might be limiting your credibility, talking about them with others might help, but it could enhance the risk of appearing desperate, as described above. You have little or no control over what other people believe. Instead, focus on eliminating them from your own behavior. Be the best You that you can be. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.