How to Lose Credibility

And Thereby Lose Business

by Susan Dunn


It happened again. I was drawn to an article with an enticing title, something like "Hoplite Warfare and Modern-day Management," and, fascinated, I 'bit'. Finally in the second-to-last paragraph, the person referenced an article someone else had written by that title and that was it. "No fair!" I'm crying. Note to self: never call this person for anything.


The free things that are not are also a turnoff. They destroy credibility across the board. (If she lied to me once, she'll lie to me again.) When someone promises me something "free" and then leads me to fill out four Internet pages of forms, and then says it's "free" when I pay the $20 postage, I'm furious.

Of course we all know you don't get anything for free, except sometimes you do, so there's always the temptation to "bite". However, once having been duped that way I'm through with the product, the person, the web, the store, and/or the company. I have a memory like an elephant. Also, in my impotent rage, I'll pass the word on. What else can I do?

"Don't fall for that 'a dozen roses free on xxx site', I tell everyone I know. Turn about is fair play.


Wordplay also turns me off. Now you can say "XX can matter more than YYY" and this is legitimate wordplay. Unfortunately it may slip by some of the less-qualified grammarians among us, but it is not saying it DOES matter more. It's saying that in some circumstances, at some times, for some people, it CAN, and that's a truth.

It's the wordplay like, for instance, in my field most coaches say they offer "free coaching sessions. I would prefer they say "free sample session" or "free information session," because for some it means they start right in coaching you (a sample session) while for others it means they'll answer some general questions about coaching and about their qualifications and that's it. If you say, "But what would I do about. . . " they say, "Well, that's what we would discuss in coaching."

Also I don't mind being told "In most cases the results are good," but I DO mind being told "Our research has shown that. . . " and finding out it was informal "research" done on 6 people with vested interests.


Unpredictability is another trust buster. If I'm told they'll send me an ezine every Monday and it comes whenever, they lose credibility. What else will they misrepresent? How can I count on them to do what they say?

A rock star was quoted as saying the reason his group had done so well was because when the chips were down, they never failed to disappoint. Only a rock star can get away with something like that.


Inconsistency destroys credibility as well. You know what it's like if you meet with your lawyer one day and he has on the 3 piece suit with vest and suspenders, and the next meeting he's got on un-pressed dockers and filthy sneakers. "Who is this person?" you think. We can work with that, but it's shocking. It makes us question, and a professional doesn't want you questioning. Those relationships are built on trust.

Being consistent about dress, phone calls, ezine deliveries, and style of email is important especially in the beginning of a relationship. Testing is going on. There's enough to deal with without encountering your marketing consultant in a Zipped-up Jaeger one day and a fuchsia boa over cleavage the next.


When someone's being secretive, secretive-like, we immediately get suspicious. That's just human nature. This can manifest in various ways:

ME: Have you worked with blah blah before?

THEM: Don't worry about that.

ME: [secrets . . . ]

ME: How do I know you'll submit those articles where you say you will if you won't give me a list?

THEM: You'll just have to take my word for it.

ME: [not me]

Unfortunately in many of the cases if the person would talk around the question, we would feel reassured. In the first case, if they would take the time to bring up some documentation or at least not act like we're too little or idiotic to absorb the information, I'd feel better.

In the second case, many lists such as that are copyrighted, and proprietary, and a simple explanation of this concept would set things straight. Many "objections" like this can be overcome if the person will fill air time with words. Shutting up and clamping down causes the other person to do the same and credibility is lost. Emotions are contagious.


Particularly in service professions, if I feel I'm being rushed in and out, I have to wonder why. My doctor for instance. He came in before a surgery at one time and I tried to engage him in conversation.

ME: So, do you have kids?"

HIM: Why do you want to know?

ME: [to myself of course] Oh, let's see, because you're about to anesthetize me which could leave me brain damaged, paralyzed or dead, and then cut my abdomen open, and I could very well die at your hands, and if I live I'll be in excruciating pain for two days, and I'd just kind of like to hear your voice for a moment, you know, something to hang on to in my utter terror, silly me.

One of the best things professionals who book back-to-back do is hang one of those signs on the wall saying if they're running late it's because they're taking good care of a patient/client, and you will receive the same when it's your turn.

And once in there, an apology goes a long way. Not an "I'm an awful accountant" sort of apology, but, "I hate it when I have to keep you waiting. You're one of my favorite clients." Yes that's what mine tells me. Yes it works. I'm human! And in today's busy world, it's a matter of would you rather be kept waiting and then shamelessly flattered, or be kept waiting and then treated like dirt? I'll take the former.


On the other hand, I try and BE a good client, customer, and patient. You know, considerate, sometimes entertaining, at least not grumpy. I appreciate when the professional does the same. If they act like the whole thing is a pain in the neck, and their cross to bear, they lose credibility. It's the human factor. I travel across town and pay a bit more for a professional who greets me with a big smile and asks about my kids. The hostile practitioner around the corner does as good a work, but I can't stand his personality. There's a lot of competition out there.


From confidentiality, to truth-telling, to professional attitude, to double-checking bills going out, it all goes toward credibility. We have lots of people we can buy most things from, and some markets are particularly tight (printing, for instance) so it's the little things that count, and they aren't very little after all. In most of these instances, once is an accident, twice is a habit, and habitual inconsistency, unpredictability, and un-professionalism are things that destroy business relationships.

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About the Author

Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, . Susan offers coaching, distance learning courses, and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional development. She also trains and certifies EQ coaches. Free ezine: Get Daily EQ tips; send a blank email to

You too can get in this field (dubbed "white hot" by the press) now before it's crowded, and offer your clients something of real value. Start tomorrow, no residence requirement, global student body. Email for prospectus. Business programs - .

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