Discover more from The O’Daily by Kathryn O'Day
3 Strategies For Establishing Credibility — No Matter Who You Meet
Has this ever happened to you…?
You have a meeting set up with someone quite a bit older than you.
You’re in the same industry, maybe even the same role. Or maybe it’s a current customer or prospective client.
They might have more experience than you (see: older) but not always.
During the meeting, you listen and nod attentively.
It’s good manners, you don’t want to interrupt, people love an attentive listener, you want to make a positive impression.
It’s a little tiresome. They are droning on. Giving you advice you didn’t ask for. They interpret your polite question as encouragement and continue the soliloquy.
Meeting concludes and the power dynamic is established:
You are the subservient rookie.
They are the experienced expert.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??
How can you be seen as a peer instead?
(Note: if you are looking for a mentor, great. But if you’re trying to network, earn business, or build credibility, this is terrible!)
I have had this experience many times over the years.
Being a young customer success manager with older clients, being a young startup leader with older F500 executives, being a young(ish) investor with older investors.
The mentor/mentee pattern didn’t seem to happen to my male counterparts though — even when meeting with someone older or more experienced.
What was going on??????
I paid attention to the differences in my interactions, when I felt a power differential most, and when I felt like I had earned respect as a peer regardless of age.
I FINALLY figured it out. It was within my control.
Here’s what I learned that changed how I showed up in the world:
To be seen as a peer, you must TREAT OTHERS AS A PEER.
How do you talk to someone who is your “equal” — a friend, a peer, a co-worker?
You banter back and forth, add your thoughts, and keep it casual yet respectful.
No fawning, polite listening, or catering to egos.
Peers do things like:
add their stories or experience to the conversation
ask low-key questions
In the wise words of Shannan Monson, “I never fangirl.”
THIS is how you get taken seriously whether you’re a woman, young person, first-time founder, new-to-tech, or whatever characteristic makes you think you’re not on the same level as someone.
Assert yourself as a valuable and equal counterpart with these 3 strategies!
1. Interject and Add
Absolutely the most important way to establish your credibility.
It sounds rude but DO NOT WAIT FOR AN OPENING IN THE CONVERSATION.
If you’re waiting for someone to ask you a question or get your thoughts, you might be waiting a long time. 😂
Especially if you’re a good listener.
Deliberately turn the conversation (monologue?) into a two-way street!
Chime in and add value:
related experience or story
recent tidbit from the news
build on their insight with one of your own
Think about a conversation with a friend or colleague. You trade stories, build on points, go back and forth! Recreate this dynamic.
Use improv comedy’s “Yes and” format!
“Yes, and that’s exactly what we’ve been hearing from customers. In fact, last week, one of the F500 companies we work with said, blah blah blah…”
“Yes, and the article from Wall Street Journal had additional data on that. Did you see their reporting on a 25% increase in seed funding in Q3?”
2. Be Cool
Never fangirl (or fanboy!) if you want to be seen as an equal.
And I say this as someone who is naturally overly enthusiastic!!!!!!!!!!!
Figure out how to be positive and be your best self without gushing.
I intentionally tone it down — especially in a first time meeting with someone established, senior in their role, etc.
(NOTE: This is wildly different than when I meet with founders where I’m trying to make everyone feel comfortable, relaxed, and open!)
Language matters. Pick the words of a peer.
SAY THIS: “I’ve been looking forward to connecting.”
NOT THAT: “I’m so excited to meet you!!!!! It’s amazing that you did xyz and I love xyz. OMG!!!!!!”
SAY THIS: “Thanks for taking the time.”
NOT THAT: “Thank you soooo much for meeting with me. I know how busy you are!!! I really appreciate it.”
To be clear.
I’m not saying NEVER BE COMPLIMENTARY OR APPRECIATIVE.
But rather — understand how your language and actions will be perceived!
Adjust your language and actions to meet your goals.
If you meet Beyoncé, FANGIRL!!!!!!!!!
If you meet an investor, get them off that pedestal and treat them like a respected peer.
3. Ask Casual Questions
Asking questions is a great strategy, especially if you’re feeling unsure about the topic at hand.
With the right technique, you can do this as a peer rather than an uneducated newbie.
Think about how you’d ask a question to a co-worker or a friend. Casual, off-hand, with an “Oh hey — how did that thing go?” vibe.
Step one, channel that tone.
Step two, avoid disclaimers or qualifiers!
Would a peer say something like?
“I don’t know anything about that.”
“You know so much more than me.”
“I’m not educated on xyz.”
NO FREAKIN' WAY.
Plus — 99% of the time, you know more than you think.
STFU, Imposter Syndrome!!!!!!!
Ask the question straight up. Casual. No disclaimers.
For bonus credibility, include a lead-in that shows you know a thing or two.
Here are examples of educated, peer-to-peer questions.
“How are you all thinking about <this trend, concept, challenge>?”
“I know a lot of companies are doing xyz right now. What’s your strategy?”
“We’re seeing xyz. What are you seeing on your end?”
“What did you think of <news event>?”
“What the backstory on that?”
“Oh, interesting. What do you think about xyz?”
Spread the Word
It took me 15 years to figure this out.
(I love endurance events after all…😂)
You can do it WAY faster!
Share these credibility cheat codes with someone coming up in the world or keep them in mind for yourself.
Forward this to a woman early in her career so she can learn now rather than a decade in!
Share with someone breaking into tech who is apprehensive.
Pass along to a founder who is meeting with investors.
Or send the tl;dr:
What helps you establish credibility quickly? What qualities stand out in a peer-to-peer interaction vs a big-dog-to-newbie one?