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Communicating Credibility: 3 Factors That Make People Listen

By Maxwell Leadership | January 24, 2023
Communicating Credibility: 3 Factors That Make People Listen

This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s communication resource, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. John Maxwell has been one of the world’s foremost communication experts for more than 40 years, and this guidebook for relational and presentational connection contains invaluable insights. You can pick up a copy here.

As of 2022, buy-in is more valuable than it has ever been.

Investment intelligence organization Magna Global estimates that last year, the U.S. advertising market surpassed $300 billion for the first time. Companies all over the world spent $318 billion crafting campaigns and purchasing space for their advertisements. Thousands of companies, millions of man hours, and billions of dollars, all in pursuit of the most valuable resource out there: our attention.

If you’ve ever tried to communicate with someone who just wasn’t invested, you know how much that buy-in is worth. Communication is a two-way process; it can’t happen if listeners aren’t listening. But you don’t need a billion-dollar budget to get your listeners to lean in.

Credibility Earns Attention

Experts say that we are bombarded by as many as 35,000 messages every day. If our listeners’ attention is the most valuable resource out there, and there is that much competition for it, we must give them a reason to listen to us.

That reason is called credibility. Great communicators offer their listeners credibility factors upon which they can form a connection. These are just three of the many potential connection elements you can use to connect with your listeners.


Why did millions of people start listening to Dr. Phil McGraw, a psychologist who helped lawyers as a trial consultant, and begin taking his advice on life, love, and relationships? For the same reason that millions started listening to Dr. Mehmet Oz about health issues – and it’s not because of their qualifications.

Both men are, in fact, qualified professionals in their fields. Dr. McGraw has a PhD in psychology from the University of North Texas, and Dr. Ox is a cardiothoracic surgeon and teaches the practice to medical students at Columbia University.

But most people neither know nor care about these facts. The careers of both of these men began to thrive on a national scale once they appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show. As soon as Oprah’s followers learned she had confidence in them, they had confidence in them.

Whether you’re communicating with an individual, a group, or an audience, one of the quickest ways to gain credibility with them is to borrow it from someone who already has credibility with them. Of course, once the door is open, you still have to deliver – but before that point, your relationships are a valuable resource for building credibility.


Individuals who perform at a high level in their profession often have instant credibility with others. People admire them, they want to be like them, and they feel connected to them. When they speak, others listen – even if the area of their skill has nothing to do with the advice they give.

For example, Michael Jordan is not a shoe manufacturer. But he is one of the world’s most talented athletes. In fact, the website for the National Basketball Association says of him, “by acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time,” before going on to list 13 career-making accomplishments of his, including his 5-time title of NBA most valuable player and 6-time title of NBA champion. In terms of sports, his record is legendary.

Nike, on the other hand, does manufacture shoes. And since they partnered with Jordan in 1984 to sell shoes, the company has grown in revenue more than 40 times over. When they first launched Air Jordans that same year, they had hoped to make $3 million selling the shoes over the span of three years. They now make that much off the shoes every five hours.

Excellence connects. If you possess a high level of ability in one area, you will get their attention because of it.


In the second half of the 20th century, one poor, diminutive schoolteacher from the slums of India had the respect and ear of leaders around the world. People of all faiths seemed to admire her. Why? Because Mother Teresa lived a life of sacrifice.

If you have made sacrifices, suffered tragedy, or overcome painful obstacles, many people will relate to you. And if you have been able to remain positive yet humble in the midst of life’s difficulties, they will admire you and you will be able to connect with them. When they hear your story and understand the triumph that you represent when you communicate, their hearts will go out to you.

Are you looking for ways to become a master communicator?

At Maxwell Leadership, our heart is personal growth and development. It is so much part of our DNA that at our twice-annual event, the International Maxwell Conference, we have an entire day dedicated to personal growth – and we’d like to invite you to join.

On March 13, 2023, join Dr. John C. Maxwell and his panel of personal growth experts – including NFL head coach Sean McDermott! – at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Florida (or remotely!) for an entire day of growth and development training. Not only will you connect with other professionals passionate about achieving their full potential, but you’ll also go home equipped with an intentional action plan to begin putting in place same-day.

You can register for Personal Growth Day here – we would love to grow with you!

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