If your listener trusts you, your impact is multiplied. To be a powerful communicator you need to know how to earn trust.
There are eight keys:
1. Tribal solidarity: Are you part of the listeners’ community, or are you a stranger? If you speak the language of their group, you have the advantage. If your listeners are strangers, take time to identify shared values and experiences.
2. Consistency with your earlier story: Listeners have memories. If what you say today doesn’t square with what you said yesterday, you have a credibility problem.
3. Consistency with other witnesses: If your story doesn’t mesh with what the listener has already heard (or will soon hear) from others, don’t ignore this, and don’t dance around. Explain the difference and respectfully show why your story is preferable.
4. Consistency with other evidence: You need to understand what the listener has already experienced and learned about the subject matter, and you need to treat his body of knowledge and experience with respect. If you plan to build on that, understand how you will make your new value proposition. If you are going to contradict what the listener has already accepted as gospel, you had better have a good plan. If you dodge the issue, the listener will assume the worst.
5. Willingness to speak against self-interest: Nothing earns credibility like being honest about information which harms your own position. Obviously you’ll do this intelligently and as part of the bigger picture, and you’ll show how your proposition is the better one. But you won’t pretend that there’s not another proposition. Stay in control of the conversation-- it’s possible to be strong, confident and candid all at the same time.
6. Body language: Do you trust people who won’t look you in the eye, who babble like fools, or who slump and mumble? Of course you don’t. So, don’t be that guy! Stand up, speak up, look ‘em in the eye-- if you want to be believed, look believable.
7. The company you keep: If your listeners don’t like your friends, they probably won’t like you or your message, either. If you know that there is distrust between your audience and your own community, deal with it right up front, and do this with the utmost respect. Speak from your heart to their heart. If you show respect and courage, you will earn the right to be heard.
8. The novelty of the proposition: Perhaps your proposition is “old hat” to you, but if it is brand new to your listeners, expect scepticism. Don’t hate their scepticism but understand it, respect it, and earn your way around it.
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Norman Bowley is a communicator by passion, a lawyer and educator by profession. Thirty-six years of legal practice after ten years as an educator have equipped Norm to teach professionals how to communicate effectively and with power.