THE BLOG

Do You Sound Credible?

04/19/2015 09:52 EDT | Updated 06/19/2015 05:59 EDT

I've had a recent attraction to all the Law & Order-type shows that seem to be on television right now. I like to pretend I am the investigator; I pay close attention to the suspects. I have found that sometimes they are very credible in what they say and how they say it. Those people are usually the good guys. Now yes, I realize these are TV shows and the people aren't real. However, they still give us insight into what people say and the way that they say it -- and whether or not we believe what they are saying.

Credibility makes such a difference. It can make a lot of good things happen in your life, such as job promotions. Lack of credibility, on the other hand, can hurt your reputation and cost you those same promotions.

You're in control

Credibility is one of those invisible skills that we have quite a bit of control over. It can affect every aspect of your life including your professional life. Luckily, there are many ways in which you can control your credibility; this time we will start with one of the easiest credibility crunchers.

Let's assume you are not going to be interviewed by any police officers in the near future, and talk about what happens at work. Listen to yourself the next time you are in a meeting or delivering a presentation to detect whether you get yourself into trouble with any of the following credibility crunchers:

Using absolutes

When you use words like 'always' and 'never' you are using absolutes. You will probably lose some credibility by using absolutes. It almost sounds like a child having a temper tantrum: "You never take me to McDonald's!" something that isn't, in fact, true. Using absolutes can make the receiver become defensive. It tends to put barriers into the conversation; others end up not listening properly and, without realizing it, you can begin to sound aggressive.

Not using forceful words

Words that are monosyllabic (have one syllable) are the most forceful words in the English language. Think about some of the great speeches of our time:

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country..." (John F. Kennedy), or "I have a dream..." (Martin Luther King).

This is powerful stuff, and most of it said with one-syllable words. Don't confuse the issue with big, fancy words. Professional communication skills require that the person you are speaking to understands the meaning of the words you are using. Using fancy words from the darkest depths of the dictionary can make your message sound aggressive, or at least pompous. Simple, one-syllable words are easy to understand, easy to remember, and have an assertive, powerful feeling to them.

Not pausing, or over-pausing

Pausing can have great impact on your message as well, in both a positive and negative sense. If you pause too much, it looks like you don't know what you are going to say, and you lose impact. But pausing appropriately can make you seem very deliberate and strategic in your use of words and, therefore, lend you some credibility. Rushing through your words with few pauses, on the other hand, can make you sound scatterbrained, overly excitable, wound-up like a top.

So where is the perfect balance? In the one-two dance step. Any place in a sentence where there would normally be a comma, a semi-colon, a period or other punctuation, say to yourself one-two (at the same speed as a waltz dance step: speak one-two, speak one-two) .

There are so many things that can take away our credibility. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to increase our credibility. What you say and how you say it is always up to you.