What Being Credible Looks Like in Real Life

To be credible is to be competent.

Most people, however, limit their understanding of competency to mean being smart, which is only partially true.

The problem with simply being smart is that purely “smart” people have a tendency to know that they are smart and flaunt that fact with a certain “know-it-all” attitude.

Unfortunately, nobody likes a know-it-all, which means that while competent, one’s ability to maximize their impact and productivity with others becomes impeded. When you fail to fully leverage competence, particularly due to a lack of relational understanding and arrogance, your credibility with others suffers. The inevitable result of weakened credibility is diminished influence and leadership capacity among your family, team, and organization.

In order to garner true credibility with others then you must commit to 5 principles:


1. Know your stuff. That is not the most academic way of saying “be competent,” but it simply means to gain the knowledge you need in certain areas of expertise. Most credibility begins with knowing your specialty inside and out. If that means adding more training, reading, mentoring, or schooling, it’s always wise to build a foundation of technical excellence. But…

2. When you don’t know, be honest. The quickest way to lose credibility is to fake knowing things that you actually don’t know because you are too insecure to deal with your reality. If you will admit that you don’t know, then work like crazy to learn, you will gain far greater credibility with bosses, colleagues, friends, and spouses alike. Owning responsibility and accepting the need for improvement will always engender greater trust in your competence than feigning it and failing.

3. Work to be relevant. Being smart is half the equation, being relevant is the other half. When you are giving information, you must learn to communicate it in such a way that the other person can actually understand and use it. Being relevant means that you help the other person apply what it is that you know rather than espousing what you know for the sake of proving you are smart. When it comes down to it, relevant people are a gift to others. And people’s perception of your credibility will only grow with every degree of relevance they feel you and your knowledge bring to their life or work.

4. Learn from others. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you are an expert for life. Knowledge is almost always incomplete and, even more importantly, often becomes quickly outdated. The best way to remain credible is to be humble enough to admit that you always have more to learn from other people. New experiences, perspectives, and information will keep you grounded and relevant, so be sure to continue learning, especially from those you serve with your competency.

5. Don’t try to show what you know. Have you ever been around someone who is always working to be seen for what they know or how good of a job they do? Unfortunately for those people, their competence rarely matches their likability or trustworthiness, since such self-centered showing-off often runs contrary to giving credit where it’s due or playing well with others. The truth is, you become credible when you either know your stuff or admit that you don’t, and then learn from either reality. You become credible when you are relevant for the other people, friends, or colleagues in your life and constantly learn from them. You become credible when you are humble and simply do your job without trying to impress others. Let your competence speak for you and your likability facilitate the dissemination and expansion of that competence. If you can do that, then your credibility in the eyes of others will shoot through the roof.

In the end, to be credible is to be competent for those you serve and to exercise that competence for their highest possible good. When you become a resource for someone and they trust you, then your influence blossoms and lasting impact occurs.

Remember, knowledge puffs up the ego, but wisdom lasts forever.


If you’re interested in learning more about how your credibility affects your influence, we’re happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let us know!