Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Power of Credibility

In my business communications class, we discuss the how’s of conveying messages effectively. There are many elements to being an effective communicator, but one is indispensable: Credibility.

A speaker’s or writer’s credibility involves his or her experience, expertise and training, as well as the degree of conviction they have for their message. If you don’t believe what you have to say, no amount of skill in speaking or writing compensates for that.

For instance, I volunteer to visit patients who have recently undergone open heart surgery at a local hospital. Having “been there, done that” myself, I can speak from personal experience. I know what it’s like to lie in the hospital bed post-op, how it feels, and can attest to the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation.

However, I don’t visit patients suffering from cancer, having to undergo dialysis, or facing other maladies. Not that I’m unsympathetic to their plight; I just haven’t experienced those health problems. I can’t honestly say, “I know how you feel.”

During college, I tried (very briefly) to sell vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias. My failure was immediate and total. I could have used the money from making a sale, but couldn’t get motivated to try convincing someone to buy a product I wasn’t sure they needed or wanted.

This, I believe, is one reason Christianity is increasingly regarded with suspicion. We are quick to declare “Jesus loves you,” but fail to reflect that same love and compassion when we speak. As someone wisely said years ago, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

How can we effectively talk about the God of love, mercy and grace when we exhibit so little of it ourselves? As Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words."

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