Building trust and credibility

14Feb10

At an interview recently I was asked, “How do you build trust?” After thinking about the question for a moment, I answered,

Building trust requires that you be honest and transparent. Also, delivering on your promises instills credibility and helps build trust.

I think that was a pretty good answer for thinking on my feet. Looking back, I realize my answer comes from experience. I, along with many other technical writers, am familiar with:

  • Being accused of not being an “expert” or at the very least not understanding the topic/industry.
  • Encountering resistance, from little speed bumps of disagreement to mountains of cultural dysfunction.
  • Avoiding political games and power plays, or at least staying neutral if caught in the middle.

I mention these three things because learning to work through these obstacles and still delivering on your promises builds trust. After two months at my current position, my supervisor realized I was everything I had promised, and left me to do my job. My responsibilities increased and I began to build trust and credibility among the staff in my department.

Credibility (or ethos) is a very important part of communication and rhetoric. If your audience trusts you, they are more likely to listen and do what you are asking them. In rhetoric classes we learned that ethos comes from things like good use of branding, the author’s personal credibility, and the association with a credible source (such as a university or well-known company).

I think building trust and credibility should be something we are all consciously aware of in any job. My current employer, as a company, is focusing on being transparent with the public to build trust in shareholders and customers. At the employee level, that means:

  • Being honest when you don’t know something.
  • Owning up to mistakes or sharing the blame.
  • Communicating every step of the way.

I have learned these things from making mistakes and calming stormy waters when things are unclear.

How do you build trust among your peers and credibility in your writing?

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