Most of us know that managing your credit score is important in today’s credit-driven society. Banks and lenders look at your “FICO score” – a measure of your credit risk that tells financial service companies how well you have kept your promises to companies that have loaned you money. Every adult in America has a FICO score between 300 and 850, and a score of 700 or better means you have Very Good or Excellent credit.
But I think we all have a Credibility score as well. It might not be a formal number, but we are measured by others on the value of our word and the likelihood that we will keep our promises. And like the FICO, you need to know and manage your Credibility score as if your future depends on it; because it does.
Banks decide whether to loan you money, landlords decide whether to rent to you, and many employers decide whether to hire you, all based on your credit/FICO score. In life, people will decide whether to do business with you, be your friend, or even marry you based on your Credibility score. Relationships require trust — and trust can’t exist if your word to your friends has no value. Think about the expressions that someone’s word is “good as gold” or you can take what someone says “to the bank”. Your Credibility score will determine whether or not people can trust you, and therefore whether or not they want to form lasting bonds with you.
There is nothing more important to keeping strong relationships in our lives than keeping our word. And it is never too late to start rebuilding your Credibility score. Just as a bankruptcy only stays on your credit report for 7 years, people will give you a second chance if you prove the value of your word to them over time.
Here are some suggestions for improving your Credibility score:
1. Make small commitments
Credibility lost can’t be rebuilt overnight. Just as a credit card company will start you out with a small credit limit or a secured credit line, you have to make and keep your word to others in the small things before they will trust you with the big things. The Bible says:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10 NIV).
Put yourself in situations to build or restore the credit worthiness of your word with those people who are important to you. If you have lost someone’s trust in the past, let them know that you intend to rebuild it, then prove yourself in actions, not words.
2. Learn to say no
Sometimes we break our word because we say yes more often that we should. Many people feel guilty for saying no to their friends, colleagues or spouse, but it is much worse to say yes and then break your word. People may not always like it when you say no to them, but they will respect you and trust you if your “yes” always means yes. Prioritize your commitments. Take responsibility for those that you make and don’t say yes to those that you won’t keep.
3. Take a minute before making a promise.
Get used to saying “I will get back to you on that.” Then make sure that you are absolutely sure of your answer! When you tell someone that you need to consider something before making a commitment, they will put more trust in you knowing that you gave your answer some thought. Thinking through your promises will also give you faith in your ability to make good on your word.
We have the opportunity to shape our identity. As discussed in my earlier post “5 Steps to Change Your Thinking and Increase Your Identity“, being seen as a person that keeps your word is crucial to success, not just in business, but in all your relationships.
Being involved in the military and many successful businesses and relationships, I have come to realize that people choose to do business with those who are able to keep their word. And unfortunately, it’s become a rare thing today to find someone always faithful to their word. Those uncommon few that make their word their bond are the people that influence us. Respect based on trust builds the kind of relationships that last a lifetime. Magic happens when others know they can count on you, and you on them. That’s a true partnership — and you can take that to the bank.