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This Simple Sentence Can Increase Your Credibility

This Simple Sentence Can Increase Your Credibility

Do you want people to instantly find you more likeable? Do you want to come across as trustworthy? What if I told you that one simple sentence could do just that? Well, researchers at Harvard University have conducted a study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Sciencethat found the very sentence that does the job. And what exactly is the sentence?

“I’m sorry about the rain!”

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Okay, it’s not exactly what the sentence is but what it represents. The study found that apologising for circumstances outside of your control makes you come across as more credible, likeable and honest. People who use superfluous apologies tend to be welcomed more warmly by strangers than those who do not.

So what exactly did the experiment involve and what do the results really mean?

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The Experiment

Several experiments were undertaken using different scenarios. The most compelling experiment involved a male actor that approached 65 people at a rainy train station over two days. He requested to borrow random people’s phones – half the time adding that he was sorry about the rain before his request, while with the other half he just asked to borrow the phone without the initial apology. Amazingly, without the apology only 9% of the people asked found him trustworthy enough to let him borrow their phone whereas adding the apology about the rain saw that jump to 47% of instances where people gladly handed over their phone to him. That raised his credibility by 38%.

The researchers tried this with two other scenarios which involved asking people to watch a video or imagine the situation instead. One experiment involved asking participants to imagine they were heading out into the rain to greet a second-hand iPod seller. They were asked whether or not they would find the seller more trustworthy if he apologised for the rain first, and again, the participants rated him as more trustworthy when using the phrase than without.

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People were asked to watch a video of somebody approaching passengers of a delayed flight asking to borrow their mobile phone. They were asked to imagine they were the passenger being asked and what their response would be. When they witnessed the person apologising on the video before making the request the participant was much more likely to acknowledge credibility and say they would hand over their phone.

What Do The Results Mean?

It seems the unnecessary apology creates a sense of empathy towards the asker and when we only have split seconds to make the decision, it sways us to think that this person is trustworthy. It is also thought to be an effective way to open up communication with the other person creating an invitation to respond in a positive way. The researchers describe that the apologiser “communicates that he has taken the victim’s perspective, acknowledge adversity and expresses regret.” 

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The idea that the person on the receiving end is a victim shows that there is a certain vulnerability in the situation and by apologising we are acknowledging that, not only do we realise this, but that we’re sorry for putting them in the situation in the first place. We are therefore diffusing the victim mentality and putting ourselves on the same level – it’s showing that we care.

Should We Apply This?

In a word – yes. Quite clearly the value of an apology for something outside of our control is high. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to ask someone for a favour and need their willingness to cooperate then you will be mightily more successful if you add in a little superfluous phrase before the request.

Or, of course, next time you’re out in a rainstorm try turning to your fellow comrades and apologising for it – their opinion of you may just go up.

Featured photo credit: Silvia Sala via albumarium.com

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Jenny Marchal

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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