Skills 360 – How to Sound Credible (1)

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Hello and welcome back to the Business English Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want to look at how you can sound credible, or believable.

And believe me: this is going to be one really great lesson. Trust me. It’s going to be great. Unbelievably great!

Okay, but really folks, does that kind of thing sound familiar? It’s election year in the U.S., and you’ve probably been hearing some pretty big talk from the candidates. One of the most glaring problems with so much of these candidates’ statements is that of credibility.

Sounding credible means that people can trust you, and trust what you say. And not just because you tell them to. Sounding credible also means people will respect you and believe you have the competence to get the job done. So, how do you make people believe that? What exactly should you say to sound credible? And what should you not say?

Well, one thing that credible people do is talk about principles, or values. These are the basic ideas behind how we act and make decisions. So if you’re in a meeting and you’re arguing against an idea, make sure you reference the principles that have led you to your opinion. For example, that might sound like “I’m concerned about efficiency.” Or “this doesn’t match our company’s commitment to excellence.” Efficiency and a commitment to excellence are values. And talking about them makes you sound more credible.

Now, because credibility is related to trust, it’s important to be transparent, or open and upfront about a situation or your intentions. If you’ve got some bad news to deliver, don’t pretend everything’s rosy. Or, say you’re trying to recruit someone for your team and you fail to mention all the challenges they might face. That’s not transparent. And your credibility will suffer if you’re not open and honest.

Another essential habit of credible people is that they admit when they’re wrong, or when they’ve made a mistake. After all, we’re only human. It’s completely unreasonable to think that anyone is perfect. Nevertheless, a lot of leaders have a really tough time admitting their own fallibility. They’re afraid of being seen as incompetent. And some are simply arrogant enough to think they don’t make mistakes. But there’s a ton of research to show that a leader who admits to mistakes enjoys greater respect than one who doesn’t.

Of course, it’s not just enough to admit a mistake. The next step is accepting responsibility for that mistake. That means correcting yourself. Or working to make things right again. And that whole idea of “making things right” ties back in with values and principles. People who don’t try to right their wrongs, on the other hand, lack credibility.

Now you might be thinking: but if a person makes too many mistakes, even if they admit it, will people still believe in him? In other words, isn’t there a limit to how many mistakes people will accept?

Sure there is. You can’t just screw up everything you touch and expect people to still believe in you. And that’s why credible people know the importance of research and preparation. Talking about what you don’t know, or don’t understand is a recipe for disaster. You need to make sure you know what you’re talking about, because the more you know or understand, the fewer mistakes you’ll make.

The same is true about good preparation in general. People who don’t have credibility are often terribly unprepared. And they make up for that by ranting and raving and appealing to emotion over logic. Sure, this might work for some leaders, or politicians. But usually it means putting your foot in your mouth and then dealing with the aftermath.

All right, so let’s just run through some of the things credible people say. First off, they talk about the values and principles behind their ideas. They’re also open and transparent about their aims. They admit when they’re wrong or they’ve made a mistake, and they work to correct those mistakes. And finally, they make fewer mistakes in the first place because they’re prepared. In our next lesson, we’ll look at some things not to say if you want to sound more credible.

That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.

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