Credibility

“Thank you for your credibility, Kate” she said, at the moment I had turned to walk out of the room.

“You said you would be here, and you were” she had continued, in a tone that made her sincerity clear, and validated the surprise I felt at the compliment, the rarity she experienced in giving it.

I had come to her to follow up on a discussion we began the night before. She had made a request that I could not grant at that time, but I had promised to return in the morning to follow up. From early in the morning it was clear to me that I still would be unable to come through for her, to resolve the matter in her favor. I had shown up nonetheless, to apologetically deliver the bad news, in person. I knew I would tell her I couldn’t do it, but that I would continue my efforts to see if the situation would change throughout the day, to at least allow for a continued shred of hope.

I entered the room disappointed, even nervous at the task of telling her no. I had anticipated, at least in the back of my mind, the potential for a confrontational response from her. The reasons for her request were valid, but the outcome she desired was simply not possible. She was obviously disappointed, but understanding. Thankful, if not encouraging, that I continue to try to fix things.

Her words upon my exit had stopped me in my tracks. Gratitude for something with which I always hope to function, but realize is not always present. For if it was, the acknowledgement of my credibility would be moot, as if she had thanked me for breathing.

Credibility. It isn’t about being able to give more, produce more, please people more. Rather, it is about focusing on only making promises I intend to keep, furthermore, promises I actually can keep. Not only that, but credibility requires that I communicate what I intend to do before I begin the process of doing it.

The outcome, for her, would have been no different, regardless of whether I had shown up to tell her myself or not. But if I had chosen to hide, to break my promise, the disappointment she felt would not just be for the outcome, but in me as well.

Since my incident with the mom in the room and the disappointing news I chose to deliver in person, I have shifted my daily focus. It hasn’t been long, but so far the results have been positive. In health care, sometimes one of the major things our families want from us, as caregivers, is a little credibility. The most common complaint I field from the families I have cared for is the inconsistency they see, whether it be an inconsistency between different team members, or even worse, individual inconsistencies. People saying they will do one thing, and never communicating, never acknowledging if or why things have changed. A little credibility goes a long way in building confidence and satisfaction.

And this isn’t just true in hospitals, or even in business. In personal lives we could all use a little more of this too. I think about how often I say I will do something or be somewhere, and how quickly I let things get in the way and change my plans. Some people may call it flaky, but I’m starting to think that, unfortunately, I simply just suffer from a profound lack of credibility sometimes.

But it isn’t too late! I am going to try to fix it. And you probably can fix it too. What better people we would be, better professionals, lovers, and friends if we focused a little bit more on our own credibility.

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