Credibility

The last thing a man wants to lose is his credibility. But, is it that which gets his first priority? If credibility is not the first priority for a man, then it cannot be that last thing to lose. In other words, credibility is not an accident but a default output of deliberate and consistent choices that a man makes in life. Since it is an output by default, it cannot be manipulated. Howsoever hard a man tries to hoodwink others about his credibility, he will ultimately fail in it as credibility is not an end in itself and that the means to the end were already set in by him.

What is credibility? In one word, credibility is trustworthiness. A man of credibility is a man who can be trusted for his words and actions — he will irresistibly abide by the meaning that his words expound and that his actions will be in congruence with his words. If we break the word: trustworthy, it reads worthy of trust. This element of worth is added to the variable: trust not overnight but over a period of time through a process where your belief in something or someone gets tested repeatedly. There is difference between trust and belief. Believing someone or something can be a one-off incident while trust is the intangible set of tried, tested and succeeded beliefs accumulated over a period of time. For example, when you buy a brand of soap or perfume or any product for the first time, you decide to believe in the benefits it claims to deliver, but these claims can be true or false. If they are true, your belief in the brand has succeeded, and if not, failed. The succeeded-belief will be tried and tested during repeat purchases over a period of time, and if each time your belief in the brand – belief in the benefits it claims to deliver – succeeds, you develop a trust in the brand. I do not believe what you say, and I do not have trust in you: these two often-heard sentences echo the not-so-subtle difference between belief and trust.

Trust is not a dead end but a live wire, meaning trust can be shaken and even broken. Trust in someone or something is shaken when your belief is tested and failed once while trust is broken when your belief is tested and failed repeatedly. Trust shaken can be repaired and restored while trust broken is broken forever. In order to elucidate further on the difference between trust shaken and trust broken, I wish to cite an incident without any prejudice to the protagonist in the incident. A few years back, CNN suspended the program: Global Public Square, or G.P.S., because in one of the episodes, the anchor and program creator was found to have done a little bit of plagiarism. I used to watch this program — and also after the incident – and the viewers’ trust in the program was shaken by this single event. Subsequently, the anchor apologized and the channel reinstated the program. Since it was a one-off incident where the viewers’ belief in the program was failed only once, the trust in the program was shaken but not broken. Had the probe by CNN revealed that the program was doing plagiarism over many episodes it would have made viewers’ trust in the program battered and shattered, leading to trust in it broken forever.

There are three factors: ideology, ignorance and credulity that have the power to make a man lose his credibility even when he has the noble intention of being on its side. Trust can sustain worthiness only when truthful actions emanate from a man. When there is tussle between truth and falsity in an ideologically charged environ, ideology forsakes truth if it is not in harmony with the tenets of the ideology. In other words, falsity gets a moral push under the cover of ideology and looks triumphed over truth. An ideology-wedded man, who is honest and trustworthy in the larger domain of life, does vouch for the ideology even when he knows that it is not in harmony with truth. Such repetitive aberrations from his otherwise trustworthy quality of consistently holding on to truth can make him a man whose credibility is seriously dented.

Ignorance does not make a man less, for it is not being aware of. Nonetheless, ignorance can cost a man heavily, including a hit on his credibility. However, the real danger is not ignorance but being ignorant about the ignorance, autopiloting a man to continue with his ignorant actions leading to the loss of credibility. Temporary setback to credibility from an ignorant action can be set right, but loss of credibility from continued ignorant actions is all but restorable. “You do not know what you do not know until you know it,” the famous quote sums it all about being ignorant about ignorance.

What is the biggest casualty of credibility? The answer is credulity. Credulity is the proclivity to assume that something is true. Being credulous, instead of seeking and verifying the veracity, can lead to actions bereft of credibility. After all, credibility is truth-centric. Assumption is a gateway to either truth or falsity with equal probability. But if you can replace assumption with presumption, the possibility of being on the side of truth is much higher. Presumption is informed assumption, meaning when truth is beyond the comprehensible spectrum, man tries to find the perceived linkages of truth and take decisions based on such information. The most damaging aspect of assumptions is that they have irrepressible powers to go incognito into the thoughts of a man and influence his thought process. And this can cause damage to his credibility without his knowledge because assumptions can be false, hence, the consequent decisions will fail against the yardstick of credibility. Ultimately, only will credibility be judged, not the assumptions behind decisions. Guard yourself against the proclivity to assume. Discard credulity and use the power of presumption as a way forward when truths are beyond the reach of comprehension.

It is within the possible realm to evaluate the credibility of a friend or acquaintance by the sheer fact of myriad opportunities of interaction with her/him. However, how do we evaluate the credibility of the words and actions of strangers with whom we have no option but to interact with for reasons of necessity? This is the most difficult part while dealing with strangers. There is no silver bullet to manage this difficulty except that we can take some quick notes of the person. In this regard, let me mention a couple of known psychological portrayals that are debatable either way. Over-humility is a sign of deception, and people showing such a character are highly likely untrustworthy. Consistent inability to look at the other person’s eyes during interpersonal interactions is a sign that a person is not straightforward and needed to be more cautious about — signs of lack of credibility. I have one point from my observations: People who possess the quality to laugh loudly are able to do so because they do not have a hidden personality and that they are not fearful that there is something untoward in their personality which might come out during their no holds barred laughter, thanks to their candid nature — a sign of trustworthiness.

I have to end this blog with the same sentence I used in the beginning of the blog with a small change: The last thing a man wants to lose must be his credibility.

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