More than ever, most of us have a vast multitude of voices that compete for our attention every day. Just scroll down your Facebook feed, or pick up your smartphone, or open your email, and you get an instant sampling of this. These days, most of us hear more messages from all these voices- people, media, advertising, social conscience, religion- than ever before, but we listen less than we ever have. As you scroll past the strident repost of an opposing political view by that one friend or uncle we all have, or you delete that e-mail forward from that person you used to work with, you know exactly what I mean!
Why? A big part is the sheer volume of information that gets thrown our way, competing for our attention. Once you get through your voicemail, email, and social media feeds, your capacity to absorb any more is just about shot. But there’s another reason, and it’s by far the most important one. Credibility.
Besides being a pastor, the other major part of my work is as the owner of Somerset Media Group, an audiovisual design firm that works mainly with churches and houses of worship. We do a lot of work designing and installing sound, video and lighting systems for this unique segment, and I believe we do it well because of our unique understanding and perspective given my years of “sitting on the other side of the table” as a church leader. I believe this understanding has given us a rare type of insight.
A few years ago, I met a guy who shared a similar kind of interest in all things media and technology-related. Over that common ground, we got to know each other. He decided, one day, being a go-getter, that my business needed some marketing on his behalf. So he hit the streets. What would happen for about the next year is that I would periodically get copied on an e-mail to some hapless church leader or restaurant owner recapping a conversation he’d had with them (I can imagine them being cornered) about the dire state of the sound system in their facility, how he had the solution (in the form of my business), and requesting a meeting to take next steps. This happened multiple times.
None of those folks EVER followed up on those e-mails. EVER. Why?
The issue wasn’t their need. My friend was no slouch. If their technology was broken, he would know it. And it probably was. I’m sure there was a need, at least from his perspective.
The issue wasn’t our ability to fix their problem. I have no doubt we could have achieved great results in any of those cases based on my firm’s skills, expertise, and experience.
The issue wasn’t my friend’s enthusiasm. He was bold- even fearless, and utterly convinced of the rightness of his cause.
The issue was credibility. Without credibility, there was no common ground for those other factors- as big and true as they might have been- to come together and make a difference.
Like my friend, you and I say things, do things, and post things, believing that simply because they are true, the message will be carried and received, and we’ll connect. We assume that because we think it’s important, everyone thinks it’s important.
But here's the problem: You are absolutely unlikely to convince anyone about any weighty issue (social, political, moral, or even practical) simply by presenting them with the right information. We would think that people would spring into action based simply on what seems right and true to us, even if we're absolutely convinced of it, even if it IS true. In these times of information overload, that's no longer enough. The right information is important, but it’s only half the journey.
Maybe you’ve been trying to get through to someone in your life who’s struggling or going what looks like a bad direction. You’ve had the conversation and said all the right things, but they don’t seem to hear you or change anything. It might be that they’re just unwilling to listen, but the real issue might be your credibility.
Maybe you’re cut to the heart about an injustice, a need, or a big issue in the world around us. There's something you've seen or experienced that literally keeps you up at night. You’ve posted links all over your Facebook. You’ve engaged friends and talked to people about getting involved in addressing it, but no one is following through. Certainly, we live in a busy world with lots of competing priorities, but the real issue might be your credibility.
Perhaps you’re a person of faith, and that journey has changed your life in a radical way. You’re loud and proud about sharing that faith with people around you, but few listen. It’s possible that the issue might be the hardness of their hearts, but the real issue might be your credibility.
In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll look at the components of credibility: why people listen- or don’t listen to you, even if what you’re saying is important and true.
But for now, ask yourself these questions: In my world- work, school, family, friends, who’s really listening to me? Who’s really following me? Who’s motivated to action because of me? Why?