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1 min readClose Your Credibility Gap

by Guy Gage | July 25, 2016 | Business

There’s a concept in human behavior where the human brain experiences psychological pain when a significant belief is violated by a contrary action. It’s called Cognitive Dissonance and the theory explains the reason we justify our mistakes so they don’t seem so bad. Here’s an example.

At the conclusion of a recent meeting, we reviewed our discussion and finalized who would do what by when. That’s pretty standard to ensure action is taken and movement occurs before the next meeting. One of the items was for me to send by the end of the week a description of the meeting I would facilitate.

Well, it so happened that Thursday threw me a curve ball and Friday’s meetings ran over. All I could think about was a family weekend coming up and I completely forgot about my commitment. When I finally remembered Sunday morning that my deadline passed, I experienced psychic pain. Why? Because I hold credibility highly and there was a significant gap between my desire for credibility and my action (or inaction). Cognitive dissonance drove me to do two things.

First, I tried to minimize the discretion. “It’s no big deal. The deadline was self-imposed and set long before it was necessary. It was FYI only anyway.”

Then I tried to excuse the misstep. “I’m sure they will understand. After all, this family gathering was important and who could deny that family activities matter?”

Normally, I would feel relief using these two techniques. Not so much this time because I know better and if I’m not careful, I’ll resort to this kind of behavior and lose credibility with others.

You do it too. What about the times you promised to get something to someone to review and miss the deadline because you didn’t plan or anticipate very well? Or when you said you would review something for someone and then leave it on the northwest corner of your desk for three weeks? Or when you promised a client you would call, find an answer or otherwise commit yourself or your team and not deliver? You do it over and over because you find ways of closing the gap and reducing your pain. The problem is you don’t close the gap for the other people. They are still left with your broken word, regardless of how relieved you feel.

This week, pay particular attention to the commitments you made earlier and be careful about what commitments you make going forward. Your credibility is one of the hallmarks of your professionalism, and you want to show well.

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