Whatever your personal definition of success is, you have to make sure that people are willing to trust you if you want to achieve success in life. This is one of the most basic prerequisites of success regardless of the field of work you are in or your position in an organization.

It is important because every day we find ourselves in situations where we need to persuade people to do something. Needless to say, a person would not feel comfortable doing what you want her to do, unless she trusts you enough. We generally believe that in order to nurture trust in relationships, we need to invest considerable time and effort to build a certain rapport with people so that we are in a position to influence their behaviour.

While this might sound like a lot of hard work for most people, some people are simply hardwired to build strong credibility with anyone they meet. They are able to do that because they do not only spend time building trust in each relationship, but also developing the ‘attitude of credibility’ as part of their character. The truth is, anyone who is willing to consistently invest time in building the core attitudes of credibility, can get ‘hardwired’ to be an influencer.

1. Be true to word

Nothing can tarnish your credibility more than your failure to keep your promise. If you promised to send that email to the client by 4:00 pm, make sure you do it by that time. People are willing to overlook a lapse as an exception and not as the norm. Also, if you are truly determined to consistently follow through on your commitments, make sure you do not over-promise. It makes it easier to stand by your promises. More on that in point number 7.

2. Get someone else to blow your horn

Few of us would voluntarily sit around and listen to some braggart go on and on about how wonderful he/she is. Still, every so often, we may be tempted to flatter ourselves by telling the world what great things we have accomplished. Before you start conjuring up diabolical imagery associated with bragging, let me wholeheartedly admit that; kept within limits, some “horn blowing” can produce positive effects ranging from admiration to opportunities for success.

However, if you “get someone else to blow your horn, the sound will carry twice as far.” Consider the difference between “I’m the most dependable member of the team” and “Ben is the most dependable member of my team.” Both statements seem to carry the same meaning but they are completely different in terms of their degree of effectiveness in building Ben’s credibility.

3. Learn to say ‘I don’t know’

In the age of the Internet, we feel like we are expected to know the answer to every question right off the bat. As a result of feeling compelled to come across as knowledgeable, we have become accustomed to answer questions based on a few facts and a lot of guesswork. Ironically, research has become so easy that many of us have stopped making a real effort to find answers to questions. Also, once we have blurted out a harebrained answer to a question, we lose the motivation to find the real answer. But let’s be clear; simply saying that you don’t know the answer but you’re willing to find out actually makes you look smart and scrupulous. Provided you do get back with an answer later, saying ‘I don’t know’ helps you establish yourself as a credible source of knowledge.

4. Give, not take

A social interaction is typically a transactional affair in which two people exchange something of value. In many cases, the value you derive from an interaction is an agreement by the other person to do what you would like him or her to do. However, to cut the first turf in a conversation and create trust, you should take the lead and make it adequately clear that you are genuinely interested in providing something of value to the person across the table. If right at the beginning of the conversation, your body language, your intonations, your choice of words are all aligned to give that impression, you have done half the job at building lasting credibility.

5. Listen well

Active listening does an incredible job at creating trust. When people are speaking, give them your full attention, and ask questions to clarify anything that you don’t understand. It is more important to be interested than interesting. People with poor listening skills and a habit to interject often, find it hard to influence people to do things out of their free will.

6. Use simple language

Being eloquent or knowledgeable doesn’t mean overusing jargon. In fact, the more you know about a subject and the more passionately you feel like talking to people about it, the more inclined you are to use words that communicate the core idea in the most articulate form. It goes to show that you are making an authentic effort to transfer the idea into the listener’s mind as accurately as possible. This helps build credibility for the content of your message as well as for your intent to communicate.

7. Quality over quantity

It is easy to work too much (or too little); striking a balance between quantity and quality is what is hard to do. People who have an attitude of credibility are focused on few things in life — things they really want to excel at. Rather than taking up a number of activities at once, try to be the best at one thing. Learn to turn down offers that distract you from excelling at that one thing. This will help you make sure you do not over promise in terms of the quantity of work you can do (and hence make it easier to keep your promises). At the few things you are focused on, even do so much as going beyond the call of duty in order to excel and build an impression of commitment. Over time, this would establish your credibility as an expert in the area.

8. Be accountable for your failures

People you want to trust are not the ones who blame everyone for the results of their actions but themselves. Quite the contrary, they take full ownership of the consequences of their decisions, especially if they result in failure. They are equally openhearted in giving credit for their successes to those who contributed, however little, in helping them achieve their successes. Putting blame on others gives people the impression that you would be on the lookout for scapegoats should your next venture fail. That would be enough to tarnish your credibility.

9. Dress to build credibility

You have to make sure that you look the kind of person that a customer would like to give money to. A huge part of the first impression you make is based on how your dress. Now that’s not too hard to achieve. Every detail matters when it comes to looking credible. Dressing that evokes and impression of strength, trust and confidence tell people that you are willing to play the part and do whatever it takes to be successful (read what I meant by ‘perception of success’ in this article). You come across as serious, detailed-oriented and dependable.

10. Focus on the common

The quintessential advice for sales conversations is to build a rapport with the potential client by talking about things that the two of you share in common. It could be anything from a hobby to the same alma mater. Strangely, this helps people suspend the disbelief and make them want to believe you. Human mind works in intriguing ways. By only bringing up a topic that creates a common bond with your audience, you suddenly become more trustworthy than your were in absence of that common bond. I would be more inclined to listen to someone from my hometown than to a person from a strange land.

© Majid Kazmi 2017

Majid Kazmi is an entrepreneur, community leader and board member based in Toronto. He is a Partner & Co-founder at uGen Group (www.ugen.ca), and the Co-Founder & CEO of Valu Ventures Inc. (www.valuventures.ca). He is a former Board Member at Toronto Workforce Innovation Group and H2O4ALL. Kazmi tweets as @MajidKazmi1. Click here to see his personal website.