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Does what you say sync with what you do? In addition to meeting your deadlines, achieving all your project goals, and staying within budget, establishing trust in your communications is vital to your career. In both oral and written communication, including your social media interactions, a lack of trust will lower your hallway credibility.  And once you’ve lost it, it’s all but impossible to regain.

Consider these rules to ratchet up the trust level and build your credibility for the long-haul:

Explain It to Your Grandmother.

Sometimes the better we understand something, the worse job we do of explaining it. Our familiarity makes us careless in describing it. It’s difficult to remember when we didn’t know something that has become second nature to us. Ambiguity creeps in when we least expect it. Envision your grandmother as you explain a technical concept. If it doesn’t make sense to her, it probably won’t make sense to your client or boss either. Meanings depend on context, tone, timing, personal experience, and reference points. The best test of clarity is the result you see.

Admit What You Don’t Know

When people smell blood, they start to dig. It’s human instinct to push when they feel they are being bluffed, especially when you’re trying to gloss over spotty patches in knowledge, memory, or experience.  Admitting ignorance is a simple principle, easy to remember, easy to accomplish, but often difficult to follow.  Nothing makes people believe what you do know like admitting what you don’t know.

Stay Current.

Give up outdated data, opinions, and stereotypes. Given today’s information overload, data more than two or three years old can’t support your decisions. Correct but outdated statistics soon become incorrect.

Demonstrate Cooperation With Good Intentions.

To be credible, demonstrate that you’re acting in good faith to the best of your knowledge and ability. People must believe that you want to cooperate with help them to achieve their personal and career goals. They’ll forgive you for poor judgment, but they’ll rarely forgive you for poor intentions.

Be Complete.

Are you telling all you know? Recognize the difference between lies, half-truths, omissions, and cover-ups. True, but incomplete, statements can lead to false conclusions; literal truth, when offered without complete explanations, can lead to literal lies. Knowing smiles accompanied by long silences can elicit wrong conclusions. Lying happens in numerous ways. Intentions stand center stage here. Ultimately, questionable intentions cast doubt on character.

Keep Confidences

What happens when a boss or confidante tells you, “This information is not to leave the room,” and it instantly does?  And you’re the carrier pigeon? When people know you break confidences, that you share personal matters, they fear you. Breaking confidences speaks volumes about your character. Those who observe your ability to keep your promises and your confidences will begin to trust you with their real feelings.

Avoid Exaggeration.

Did you wait on the phone for fifteen seconds, or five minutes? Did the supplier raise the rates by 2% or 10%?  Did the scores dip to 30 or down to 10?  Spinning a story can put you on a slippery slope.  Exaggeration makes for great humor, but it is a credibility killer.

Be Sincere and Genuine.  

People who pretend to be sincere can pitch an earnest plea, look at you with pleading eyes and a straight face, and promise plums that dance in your head. But genuineness comes from character and is therefore harder to generate on the spot. You either are or you aren’t. What you experience is what you share. What you value is what you give. Make what you say what you believe.

Show Concern.

People tend to trust those who care about them.  People want to know that they have a sympathetic ear in you. Even companies in crisis mode know the first reaction must be to show sincere concern over individuals in question.  How do you demonstrate concern?  Tone of voice.  Word choices. Listening.  Asking questions.

Accept Responsibility

If you were involved in the discussions, decisions, or actions, and had some control over a situation that didn’t end the way others wanted it to, own up to it. Shirkers suffer credibility gaps.

Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 45 books, published in 26 countries and 20 languages.  Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised Edition. As CEO of Booher Consultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training programs to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational communication.

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4 thoughts on “Communication Skills: 10 Tips to Create Credibility as a Leader”

  1. Thanks for this power-packed article. One of the things I have found interesting in working with leaders is that the one’s who “get” that you have to admit what you don’t know just can’t understand the ones who don’t get it. Vulnerability is a very modern leadership concept and one that needs more attention. Most leaders i work with really struggle with vulnerability…thanks for highlighting it’s role in effective communication.

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