Credibility Matters

By Dr. Courtney Howard 


Word is Bond. 

Trust Me. 

No Doubt. 

Straight Up. 

To use any of these terms is to reassure your audience that what you are saying is believable and true; that you can be counted on; that you have credibility. Unlike beauty, credibility is not in the eye of the beholder. No one is deemed credible by self-proclamation. Rather, it’s because others see you as trustworthy and describe you as having integrity.  It is part of your reputation. According to the elders, people will show you better than they will tell you.  In other words, don’t listen for credibility; watch for it.

You earn credibility by being reliably honest, competent, fair, sincere, accountable, prepared, and respectful in communication. Note that the key word “reliably” means these traits are exhibited frequently over time, in various settings, and even when you think nobody is watching. Credible people do not misrepresent and manipulate information, nor do they remain silent when others do. This might sound like a lot, but really, it’s just being careful.

Careful to spread what you know, not what you hear

Careful to double check that what you know comes from trusted, relevant sources

Careful to share information as it is intended, not “twisted” for your own benefit

Careful to consider the full story, not just a summary or the part you agree with

Careful to ask questions to gain understanding, not to prove someone else wrong

Careful to be guided by information, ethics, and values, not by convenience, popularity, or self-interest

Careful to intervene respectfully when others are not being this careful

Think of all the spaces you occupy—class, work, campus organizations, social media, family, and friends. For the most part, each of these involves different people, so it is important to gain credibility in all these settings. If not, your credibility can be called into question by the few people who know you in multiple contexts.  On the other hand, if you are consistently credible, these same people can vouch for you.  The reputation you establish has the potential to open doors, and once inside, the character you exhibit becomes part of your legacy.

Credibility matters. That’s keeping it 100 !

Dr. Courtney A. Howard is Associate Dean of the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance and Director of the Center for Partnerships to Improve Education

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