Reputation gauge

How credible are you?


Do you have a negative balance in your credibility bank account? Is there someone who is just not buying what you're selling, no matter how brilliantly you make your case? Sooner or later, you're going to need something from that person and when you need something is a bad time to be trying to build credibility.

I'll tell you the surprising secret to digging yourself out of your credibility hole: Stop digging! Stop digging means close your mouth and start listening.

Unfortunately, when you feel like you're on shaky ground, you probably do one of two things.


Are you the type that starts to talk faster and faster, lobbing any ammunition you can find at the person? Do you haul out more and better proof of why your ideas are solid? Do you go through a litany of reasons for your past failings? Whatever you sling at the person, it's only making the hole you're in deeper and deeper.

If you think about it, the reaction of most people to you lobbing things at them is to duck or to defend. In this case, defending means they start collecting more evidence of why they didn't trust you in the first place. And all you’re doing is giving it to them. Building credibility by going on the offense is not going to work.


In contrast, maybe you're the kind of person who responds to poor credibility by avoiding the person who doesn't find you credible. That's great unless you ever need anything from them, in which case you're no longer just dealing with credibility issues but probably also with your new personal brand as conflict avoidant. Dealing with poor credibility by avoiding the issue isn't going to work for you either.

So what do I do instead?

1. Stand still. 2. Ask a great question. 3. Listen for clues about what you've been missing. 4. Repeat.

"I don't think I've been doing a good job understanding your perspective. What am I missing?"

"I get the sense that I don't have a good track record in your eyes. Tell me how things went on that project from your perspective."

"We haven't worked together before but I get the sense you haven't seen a lot of value from my department in past. What would value look like for you?"

The crazy, twisted thing about being a human is that the other guy is going to like you a lot more when he's doing the talking. If you want someone to ascribe more credibility to you, let them talk! Then drop your agenda, forget what YOU think will make you credible and listen to what they're telling you. "What I'm hearing is that I didn't put enough effort into understanding implementation issues before I charged forward with my plan. Is that the heart of it?"

There's some chance that your credibility issues will be addressed with more (or more valid) data, but it's much more likely that what you need is better understanding, better empathy, and better collaboration.

Do yourself a favor: Think about one person with whom your credibility is lacking. Write yourself three good questions and invest a cup of coffee and a half an hour in repairing that credit score. You never know when you're going to need borrow from the credibility bank. Once you need something, it's too late. Start today. 

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