Have you ever tried to talk your way out of a problem you’ve acted your way into? Unfortunately, it’s an approach we often to avoid facing the humbling, and sometimes-lengthy process of regaining trust once it’s been damaged. But we forget that once our credibility has been tarnished, the words we use to polish it may fall flat if they’re not accompanied by consistent, observable behavior people can count on.
We all have a reputation—whether we like it or not. That reputation has been built over the days, weeks, months or years you’ve been with your employer, your partner, your children and your friends. What kind of reputation is it? Do people see you as credible? And what is credibility, anyway?
In the best-selling book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M. R. Covey defines credibility as high degree of character and competence. Without a balance of both, people aren’t going to trust you. You might think well of me as someone who’s thoughtful, considerate and loyal (character), but you might have reservations when I offer to pack your parachute for your first skydiving lesson (competence). Chances are you’d probably want to know just how much experience and/or training I’d had in parachute packing (none). And despite my amiable disposition and positive attitude, you’d be right to find me lacking credibility. In the same way, you might be hesitant if you learn the person who had packed your parachute had just been acquitted of a manslaughter charge on a technicality—they might have every parachute packing certification around, but if you feel something about their character is off, it will likely cause concern.
Now, this example is obviously a bit extreme, but without high character and high competence, credibility can’t flourish. Because of this fact, it’s worth “diving” a little deeper into how you might Behave Your Way to Credibility in the important relationships in your life.