Five Guaranteed Ways to Destroy Your Credibility

Burn the ladder. Don't blow up your career.
3 min. read

It is impossible to overemphasize how important it is to build a base of credibility and trust for both personal and professional effectiveness.

Credibility is not simply what you know or how much experience you have.

It’s about how others perceive your value, how your knowledge and experience helps them be successful at completing a task, solving a problem, or working through an issue.

It may sound simple, and it’s anything but.

For starters, building credibility takes time.

There are no short cuts, no miracle cures or infomercial products you can purchase to reduce the time element.

There are, however, ways to “credential” yourself when first meeting someone.

For example, you may have a:

  • Solid reputation as a subject matter expert
  • Referral from someone that the individual respects
  • Track record of success

While these enable you to get your foot in the door, credibility is built over time through:

  • On-going visibility and accessibility
  • Active listening
  • Leveling with the individual about what you and cannot do
  • A commitment and then delivering on that commitment

The reason this process takes time is that there has to be a pattern of commitment and delivery to build trust and confidence.

The repetition, consistency, and follow-through is what others observe and form the perception of one’s credibility.

If it takes 10x the time to build credibility, it takes .10x to destroy it. 

Credibility is never a given. It has to be fed and nurtured all the time.

Top 5 sure-fire ways to destroy your credibility:

How important is getting someone’s name right? Very important.

People will cut you some slack for a time or two.

Then you’re on thin ice.

Quite the opposite.

In the absence of communication, people tend to think the worst case.

There are several “successful” variations of this one.

For example, always try to top the person who says something that others think is insightful.

Remind people what you did at your last job and how important you were (are).

Speak in clear, succinct, evaluative, and categorical terms, like “that won’t work,” or “you can’t be serious,” or, my personal favorite, “that’s a stupid idea.”

While blow-outs are always fun to discuss afterwards at the water cooler, in the heat of the moment someone out of control is anything but amusing.

Destroying credibility is tough enough. Losing a job or limiting a career looms larger.

While this might be good advice for avoiding peer pressure, saying “no” is a turn-off. 

But, note, the negative perception comes from HOW people say no.

For example, when someone asks you for something, the response of “I don’t have time,” “it’s not my job,” or “I can’t do that” sound dismissive.

Well, if you haven’t realized it yet, it doesn’t just sound that way… it IS dismissive, and that response makes people defensive. Go figure.

Because credibility is connected with the ability to listen, to let others know they’ve been heard, there is a better way to say the big “no” word.

Take a breath, clear your head, and restate what the person just asked you for.

Let them know you know it is important to them.

Then state what you can and cannot do.

Explore if there are other options.

While the answer is “no,” this way of approaching the situation makes a lot more sense.

People may not like your answer, but if they know they’ve been heard, there’s a greater likelihood that respect outlasts the response.

NOT your credibility.