This article first appeared on Happify
When we meet people for the first time, the one question that’s silently running through their minds is, “Can I trust you?” In workplace settings, there’s an additional question they’re asking themselves: “Can I respect you?” And these two questions stay in their minds until we’ve established our credibility.
Knowing how to effectively establish our credibility is more important today than ever before. I think back to my own childhood, when the people we interacted with were the same people we’d known for years. Our teachers, our social circle, and our parents’ colleagues were often our neighbors, or their neighbors—an interconnected web whose ins and outs were known to all.
We now live in a world where our online following alone is often far bigger than the number of real people we know. Our workplaces and communities are diverse, expanding, and forever changing, thanks to the much larger forces of economy and globalization. Establishing credibility can no longer happen organically—it’s a skill we need to learn and build on a consistent basis.
Research shows that credibility has two main components—trustworthiness and expertise, both of which have a subjective and an objective component. Here’s how to build all 4 components.
Can I Trust You?
Subjective: Build Connections
When we communicate with others, they’re silently scanning our face for signs of danger. The whites of our eyes convey important information—a built-in safety measure hardwired early in human evolution. Hence, making eye contact is essential, as is taking an interest in what others have to say. You can even find out about them in advance, which can add to the conversation and strengthen the connection. People are naturally attracted to those who make them feel understood and valued.
Objective: Be Reliable
While trustworthiness is largely based more on subjective factors, you can also establish a reputation of reliability as an objective measure. What’s important is to know what you can deliver on, and to honor your word once you commit to it. A good way to begin is to focus more on giving than on taking, which not only builds connections, but also helps you build a reputation of being true to your word.
Can I Respect You?
Objective: Play Big
In workplace settings, where proof of expertise is essential for hiring, promoting, and trusting people with important decisions, credentials and past achievements are essential. Those who are shy about showcasing them, who downplay many of their experiences as inconsequential, or who believe that their hard work and achievements will speak for themselves, struggle with the frustration of not being taken seriously despite being the most knowledgeable person in the room. Find a way of speaking about your successes that feels authentic to you. Create a list and share it with your boss every few months. Tell others what you’re working on, enlist their support, and ask for their feedback so they become your advocates. You owe it to yourself and to your organization to let your value be known.
Subjective: Be Humble
However, expertise also has a subjective component—and those who talk the loudest or take all the credit for their successes and achievements can make others doubt their expertise or dislike them for their self-promotional behaviors. You can still establish your credibility by forming a reciprocal relationship with colleagues who are willing to talk about your achievements. You can share articles or content you’ve published, or become a thought leader on your topic of expertise. The secret is to focus less on yourself and more on making a difference to others.
Establishing credibility helps us strengthen our leadership potential, achieve professional goals that are important to us, and be recognized and compensated for our skills and competence. Together, this leads to upward spirals of success and fulfillment that help us rise to our highest potential.