"Your listeners won't care how much you know
until they know how much you care."
One fundamental truth about effective communications is that people will not believe what you say if they don't believe in you. Credibility is the cornerstone of successful communication. To be an effective communicator, you must be believed. To be believed, you must be credible. To be credible, you must be authentic. To be authentic, you must be genuine. You must be you! Accordingly, authenticity is a state of constant evolution. The authentic person is someone who knows who they are, who they want to become, and what their core values are.
Authentic people value themselves and give value to others. They are usually confident and open, trusting, trusted, and believable. Authentic also means genuine and trustworthy, and trust is vital. People trust you when you are honest with them. Honesty is a critical leadership trait. People need to know you have no hidden agendas and that you honor your commitments and promises. Trustworthiness and believability are synonymous. You can't have one without the other. To communicate persuasively and effectively you must earn trust, and to earn trust, you must be believable. So, how do you do it?
The first step in being more believable is being yourself. By knowing yourself and understanding your own fears, anxieties, goals, and aspirations, you will be able to relate more closely to others. The key to understanding others is self-understanding. People are more inclined to hear and believe someone who is honest and genuine. Belief is acceptance on faith. Some people will believe you on first impression. Others will need more time. They'll want to get to know you and need to realize promises kept and will want to know that you walk the talk.
Most people learned early in life who should be trusted. Generally it was those people who were easy to understand and read. People who were happy, warm and caring made you feel good, and you trusted them. Others whose competence and confidence in you and gave you confidence to grow, were also people you trusted to help you achieve goals. These are the same qualities you look for today. These are the qualities others look for you to exhibit. Learn to recognize and speak the language of trust. Strength in your voice, confidence and openness in your posture, and genuine interest in your expressions are all qualities you can use to create trust. Use your personal energy, enthusiasm, and facial expressions along with your words. When you coordinate your vocal tone with your words, with your actions, and with visual messages, you are more likely to be trusted and believed. Trust is one of the most basic but most powerful tools for change.
Many will hear everything you do and say. Your words and actions should be consistent to send the message you want to send. Your personal values and beliefs will be evident through your actions and behavior more than by your words. The only way to communicate values is to act in accordance with them. You can write volumes about the right way to treat people or speak about customer focus or cost containment, but if you publicly berate a staff person, or make a customer wait while you finish a personal matter, or blatantly waste supplies, your message will be what your behavior shows, not what your words say. The more congruency there is between your words and your actions the more people will trust you. As Jack Welch said, "Trust is enormously powerful in a corporation. The only way I know to create that kind of trust is by laying out your values and then walking the talk. You've got to do what you say you'll do consistently and over time."
Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in business and management consulting, strategic planning, leadership development, executive coaching and youth leadership.