A tale is told of a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers do not come to his rescue, thinking it is another false alarm, and the wolf devours the sheep.

Many of us have no doubt heard or read about this well-known Aesop fable. While it’s been used for a long time to teach children on the importance of telling the truth, a closer look at it reveals the value of credibility, another important virtue.

Credo, the root word for credibility means “I believe” in Latin. Simply put, credibility is the feeling of trust and respect inspired in others. It is the quality of being believable, worthy of trust or accepted as true, real or honest.  An interesting aspect of credibility is that no single thing creates it; rather, a combination of things must be in place for you to establish it. It is also hard to earn and very easy to lose.

Credibility is important in all aspects of life. An ability to build trust and credibility is essential in maintaining relationships. It also causes one to gain respect as a result of displaying strong, positive attributes. A lack of credibility can cause others to withhold trust. In professional relationships, it diminishes your ability to work effectively with co-workers, while in personal life a lack of trust can kill a relationship.

Building credibility is a daily process that can be practiced in different ways. While there’s no one way to build credibility, there are different practices that can create and sustain it. For instance, first impressions offer a fundamental opportunity to create credibility. It is vital to be authentic; to be who you say you are and only make claims that you can back up in this regard. Tell the truth, keep confidences, do the right thing every time and be dependable. Also, try your best to never violate your core values in the name of necessity, gain or convenience.

A willingness to admit your shortcomings also goes a long way in demonstrating credibility, so does your communication style. Learn to speak in a straightforward, clear and concise manner. Say what you know and be clear about what you don’t. In addition, listen actively to others and take their contributions into consideration whenever in a position of making decisions that will affect others.

Apologize when you cannot fulfill a promise or meet an obligation. Let others know as early as possible when you cannot keep a promise or when unforeseen circumstances cause your plans to fall through. Also, avoid laying blame to avoid the consequences of a poor choice. Taking personal responsibility for your part and working towards resolving the problem can also build credibility.

Reflections

Make yourself an honest man and then you may be sure there is one rascal less in the world.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher

Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions.

Maria Razumich-Zec, American leader in the hospitality field

Leaders strengthen credibility by demonstrating that they are not in it for themselves; instead, they have the interests of the institution, department, or team and its constituents at heart. Being a servant may not be what many leaders had in mind when they choose to take responsibility for the vision and direction of their organization or team, but serving others is the most glorious and rewarding of all leadership tasks.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, American authors

The more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, the more credibility you will have.

Brian Koslow, American author and entrepreneur

To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965), American broadcast journalist

If a man’s associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1961), 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961

 Your thoughts

I read a book where the author said that, “You can’t believe everything people tell you – not even if those people are your own brain,” and I believe that. I believe we should question everything, even ourselves. It makes us more objective and honest in the way we live.

Moses Ngoiri, 32, Statistician

Published in July 2014