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Enhancing credibility

Dr. Simon Moss


Individuals often need to enhance their credibility, especially before sales meetings and job interviews for example. That is, they would like to be perceived as intelligent and competent, sincere and honest, as well as assured and confident.

Preparation for speeches and meetings

Admission of faults

Step 1. Before meetings, such as job interviews, individuals should identify the social categories that are likely to be perceived as unsuitable to this role. For example, if the role involves creativity, accountants might not be considered suitable. If the role involves empathy, males might not be considered as suitable. Second, individuals should specify the strengths that typify these social categories& accountants are proficient at numerical calculations for example and males are proficient at physical tasks, perhaps. Finally, during these meetings, if accurate, individuals should concede they are not proficient on these tasks. They might, for example, admit they do not like numbers, a concession that enhances their credibility. Indeed, they should learn to concede these faults to other individuals as well.

Sometimes, individuals are perceived as more credible, and more suited to their job, after they concede a fault. For example, male applicants are perceived as more suited to leadership roles if they concede they are not proficient on tasks in which females usually prevail, such as dancing (Reinhard, Stahlberg, & Messner, 2008). That is, these males are perceived as more typical of their gender, and many recruiters have formed the stereotype that a typical male is better than a typical female in leadership roles.

Admission of support

Individuals like to underscore their achievements, at least subtly. They emphasize the clients they have secured, the awards they have received, the initiatives they have instituted, and so forth.

Step 2. Whenever you achieve some goal or feat, you should identify obstacles that could have precluded this success but fortunately did not arise. When you describe your feat to colleagues, you should mention you were fortunate that such obstacles did not emerge. For example, perhaps you could mention you were fortunate that management had supported your initiatives or your clients were uninformed.

Step 3. You should then specify how your peers had supported and encouraged you to devote significant effort into this endeavor. For example, you could recount some advice that had inspired your behavior. Alternatively, you could relate some encouragement that had influenced your decisions.

Employees who emphasize the support they receive from their colleagues are more likely to be perceived as proficient (Brown, Farnham, & Cook, 2002). Specifically, individuals can ascribe their achievements to a variety of factors. Individuals tend to be perceived as conceited, rather than modest, if they ascribe their success to their innate, inherent qualities--such as their ability, insight, instincts, and acumen--rather than other factors, such as peer support, economic progress, or fortune. Employees tend to receive more admiration if they are perceived as modest, because they are assumed to possess attributes and qualities they have not disclosed.


Step 4 . You should, generally, speak confidently. For example, you might maintain "I am certain I can complete this task on time". Occasionally, however, highlight you are not always accurate, especially if your predictions could be discredited in the future. That is, to most of your clients or colleagues, occasionally concede something like "I think I can complete this task on time, but I am not sure".

Usually, individuals are more likely to believe a person who maintains their position confidently rather than reservedly (see Tenney, Spellman, & MacCoun, 2008). Nevertheless, if the assertion of this person is later shown to be incorrect, the previous confidence actually undermines their credibility (see The confidence heuristic).

Suppose, for example, that some person has occasionally spoken inaccurately, such as predicting some outcome that never eventuated. In these instances, this person will be believed provided the individual did not present these unfulfilled predictions confidently. That is, if the person anticipated some event unconfidently, and this event did not transpire, this individual is perceived as someone who can estimate the accuracy of their predictions. Their credibility thus increases (see also Karmarkar & Tormala, 2010).


Mannerisms that reflect intelligence

Step 1 . To seem intelligent, you should first practice the following gestures: gaze into the eyes of your partner, use an expressive voice, nod, pause while speaking, and sit upright. Nevertheless, at least initially, you need to practice these gestures when speaking to someone who you know well, to ensure they become natural.

Furthermore, supervisors should not encourage employees to act in a way that does not represent their best traits. They should not, for example, ask employees to exhibit their warmth, humor, intelligence, and so forth, if they do not demonstrate these strengths. Instead, supervisors should attempt to encourage employees to demonstrate their strengths. They could, for example, state: "You are such a caring person. Make sure you show this side of you."

Individuals are more likely to be perceived as intelligent if they gaze into the eyes of their partner, use an expressive voice, nod, pause while speaking, and sit upright (Murphy, 2007). None of these attributes are actually related to intelligence, however.

Step 2. In addition, attempt to walk and move at a pace that resembles the average human.Do not walk or move too hastily or slowly.

Individuals who walk and move at a speed that is most common in humans are perceived as more intelligent, competent, and smart than are individuals who walk or move very rapidly or slowly (Morewedge, Preston, & Wegner, 2007).

Throughout evolution, individuals have learnt they need to predict the behavior of anyone who walks or moves at a similar pace to themselves. Anyone who moves very slowly is unlikely to be a threat. Anyone who moves very rapidly cannot be thwarted easily. To predict the behavior of anyone who walks or moves at a similar pace to themselves, individuals need to assess the mental states, the desires, needs, and intentions of the other person. Because they contemplate the mental states of individuals who walk or move at a similar pace to themselves, they perceive these people as more thoughtful, deliberate, and therefore intelligent. Indeed, even animals that move at a similar pace to humans are perceived as especially intelligent.

Mannerisms that reflect honesty

Step 3. You also need to learn how to illustrate or emphasize your arguments with gestures. For example, if you need to emphasize that sales will soon grow, move your hands away from one another as you express this opinion. Second, before a meeting, recall an instance in which you experienced a pleasant surprise. Occasionally imagine this event when you speak to other individuals. Facial expressions that reflect surprise, but not contempt or disgust, tend to enhance credibility. Third never speak slower than does the person to whom you are conversing.

Individuals are more likely to be perceived as honest if they exhibit a specific profile of gestures and mannerisms (see Frank & Ekman, 2004). First, individuals who exhibit gestures that illustrate or emphasize their arguments are perceived as honest. For example, individuals might place their hand close together to emphasize that some object is small. As a consequence, their gestures seem to reinforce the content of their arguments, fostering a sense of consistency and thus credibility (for the underlying mechanisms, see Process fluency). Second, individuals who often exhibit facial expressions that reflect surprise, but never disgust or contempt, are typically perceived as honest. Third, individuals who speak rapidly tend to be perceived as honest. That is, slow speech is thought to reflect hesitation and thus fabrication.

Subtle remarks

Step 4. Sometimes, you vaguely know a close and trusted friend of someone you will soon meet. Similarly, you might know a leader that many people in an audience trust. During meetings or speeches, refer to this person that other people trust& or even merely refer to someone else with the same name. You might say "When I was speaking to Tom..."

When individuals hear the name of someone they like dearly, they inadvertently become more trusting afterwards (Huang & Murnighan, 2010). The memory of this trusted person activates memories and inclinations of support and cooperation. These memories then bias the behavior and thoughts of individuals.

Step 5. Whenever possible, describe other people, especially people who are not in the room, using positive words. To illustrate, if you would like to be perceived as honest, use this word, or a term like sincere, to depict someone else.

After individuals describe another person--a person who is not located in the immediate vicinity--with a particular adjective, they are more likely to be perceived as demonstrating this trait as well (Ames, Bianchi, & Magee, 2010). That is, individuals like to connect the traits they hear, like honest, to a specific person they have stored in memory. They will often connect the speaker to this trait if the person who is being described is absent from the room.



Step 1. Websites, brochures, and other paraphernalia often present photographs of employees. If they employees are male, they should somehow appear tall in these photographs. For example, they could stand alongside a small door that customers might assume is large.

If these employees are female and work in jobs that demand intelligence or strength, they should also appear to be tall in these photographs. However, if these employees are female and work in jobs that demand a considerate, kind, and nurturing demeanor, they should appear to be short in these photographs.

Taller employees tend to be perceived as more competent and persuasive than do short employees and thus typically earn more money, a finding that applies to both males and females (Judge & Cable, 2004). The effect of height on career success partly arises because individuals often associate size and value. For example, a gold coin seems larger than does a piece of paper that is precisely the same size. As a consequence of this inclination, taller employees are unwittingly perceived as more valuable.

Nevertheless, taller women are perceived as less considerate than shorter women by men (Chu & Geary, 2005). To demonstrate, taller women might be perceived as more masculine. Males, and thus perhaps taller women, are perceived as more dominant but less nurturing or considerate. In addition, because of their rapid growth, the reproductive system of taller women often matures later. As a consequence, they often rear fewer children than do shorter women and thus might actually be less nurturing. In other words, the perception that taller women are less nurturing and considerate than shorter women might sometimes be accurate.


Ames, D. R., Bianchi, E. C., & Magee, J. C. (2010). Professed impressions: What people say about others affects onlookers' perceptions of speakers' power and warmth. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 152-158.

Brown, J. D., Farnham, S. D., & Cook, K. E. (2002). Emotional responses to changing feedback: Is it better to have won and lost than never to have won at all. Journal of Personality, 70, 127-141.

Chu, S., & Geary, K. (2005). Physical stature influences character perception in women. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1927-1934.

Frank, M. G., & Ekman, P. (2004). Appearing truthful generalizes across different deception situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 486-495.

Huang, L., & Murnighan, J. K. (2010). What's in a name? Subliminally activating trusting behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 11, 62-70.

Judge, T. A., & Cable, D. M. (2004). The effect of physical height on workplace success and income: Preliminary test of a theoretical model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 428-441

Karmarkar, U. R., & Tormala, Z. L. (2010). Believe me, I have no idea what I'm talking about: The effects of source certainty on consumer involvement and persuasion. Journal of Consumer Research, 36, 1033-1049.

Morewedge, C. K., Preston, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2007). Timescale bias in the attribution of mind. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 1-11.

Murphy, N. A. (2007). Appearing smart: The impression management of intelligence, person perception accuracy, and behaviour in social interaction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 325-339.

Reinhard, M., Stahlberg, D., & Messner, M. (2008). Failure as an asset of high status persons: Relative group performance and attributed occupational success. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 501-518.

Tenney, E. R., Spellman, B. A., & MacCoun,R. J. (2008). The benefits of knowing what you know (and what you don't): How calibration affects credibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1368-1375.

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Last Update: 5/10/2016