If you asked 10 different people what they consider the keys to success, chances are you would receive 10 different answers. However, it’s also likely that most people would mention one particular quality: Credibility.
Whether you are a jobseeker, an entrepreneur, a leader, or want to be a leader someday, credibility is one of the most important traits that you can possess. But what does it really mean to be credible? Many people equate honesty with credibility. The more honest you are, the more they can trust you, and the more they will believe what you say.
Yet true credibility goes well beyond simply being honest, although that is a part of the equation. Having credibility means that others believe in you and have confidence in your abilities. It means they can trust you, because your decisions and your actions are guided by knowledge and thoughtful decision-making. When you have credibility, others may not always like the decisions that you make, but they can understand why you make them and usually agree that they are the right choices.
While most people strive to be credible, most make the mistake of assuming that their actions speak for themselves. That may be true in some cases, but more often than not, establishing credibility takes time. However, there are some things that you can do to improve your credibility and gain others’ trust from the start.
Demonstrate Your Knowledge
When someone shows themselves to be incompetent, do you trust them? Probably not. However, it’s much easier to trust someone who clearly knows his or her stuff. It’s part of the reason that we value education and degrees so highly: Someone with a master’s degree or doctorate in a subject like finance is going to have more credibility than someone who read a few articles online.
Demonstrating that you know your stuff by successfully completing assignments or projects, applying your knowledge to problems and finding solutions, and providing assistance when requested can all help you demonstrate your competence and build credibility. On a more objective level, showing a willingness to continue learning can also help your credibility. Returning to school for an advanced degree, certificate, or license not only expands your knowledge base, but gives you subjective proof that you know what you’re talking about.
Another quality of those who are considered credible is transparency. In other words, you know where you stand, and what you see is what you get. People who have credibility don’t put on a great show and then do things behind closed doors, or go back on their word.
Credibility requires following through on promises, and if things go wrong, admitting the mistakes and not covering them up. When you try to hide your shortcomings or bluff your way through a difficult situation, your credibility suffers. Instead, build a reputation for honesty and ethical behavior even in the face of tough decisions — in the long run, those moments that feel impossible will form the foundation of your trustworthiness and good reputation.
Flattery might get you everywhere, but it’s not going to build your credibility. While giving an honest compliment or praise is always welcome, going overboard with your accolades won’t endear you to many. Instead, you’re likely to develop a reputation for being a phony or a fake, especially when your compliments and praise tend to be paired with requests for help with your needs. This isn’t to say you should be stingy with your kind words, but be sincere and honest to avoid questions about your motives.
Dependability is an important part of credibility. Others trust and believe in those who follow through on promises. When you meet deadlines and do what you say you will do — even simple things, like promising to send the name of a great restaurant or a copy of a book you enjoyed — others will trust you.
Building credibility takes time. However, when you consistently focus on how your decisions and actions could affect your credibility and act accordingly, your credibility will become one of your greatest assets. And don’t forget to protect your credibility, as well. A single poor decision can have lasting repercussions on your reputation, so take care to protect it. When you do, it’s possible that in time, your actions will speak for themselves, and others will quickly trust you — and you’ll find the success that you seek.