Borrowed Credibility

Borrowed Credibility

We often borrow credibility from other people who have higher credibility than we do.

When we want to convince other people, we quote research by notable experts in the field. That’s borrowed credibility. We quote statistics to support our ideas. We mention other people’s names. Borrowing credibility is something we do all the time. It makes us more credible with little effort. It gets our message across more easily.

However, borrowed credibility becomes an issue when the balance between our own credibility and borrowed credibility is skewed. When we present ideas and use quotes, we are using a ratio of 70 percent our own credibility and 30 percent borrowed author credibility. People work with me because of my own capacity or capabilities. When I am affiliated with a reputable organization, they are more likely to work with me because the organization’s reputation raised my credibility to a ratio of 60 percent to 40 percent. All of these are positive cases of leveraging what we have using borrowed credibility.

But what about a case when I have no credibility, and the only way people will listen to me is if I drop names of people I know, or use the name of my family or family business? People who are born into successful families often face the situation that their own credibility is downplayed in comparison to the family’s or business’s reputation. When this happens, it is very challenging to establish a strong individual identity which is necessary to build confidence and self-esteem.

Sometimes people get addicted to borrowing their family’s credibility and neglect to develop their own. The longer they wait to develop their own credibility the more challenging it will be to establish.

Self-credibility is a very sensitive area in which we work with families. How much credibility are you borrowing from your family and how much is really yours? It’s a tough question. I support each family member to raise their own credibility as high as they can and top it off with the family’s credibility, like an icing on the cake.