Credibility, Facebook and the election season

It is a single, very powerful word.
It is impactful in personal relationships, and leadership situations across the board.
If you are interacting with people in a work situation who you do not believe are credible, your willingness to help them, work with them, work for them, and go the extra mile for them is compromised or eliminated.
If your interactions with people in a social or relationship context, or when discussing issues of mutual interest, like politics, leave you to conclude that those people are not telling the truth, or are talking nonsense, then you will likely cease to regard their utterances on the subject as credible.
A loss of credibility may be selective (as in, they are smart in some areas but hopelessly uninformed in others), or it may become more pervasive. Actions such as lying, for example, tend to reduce people’s credibility in all interactions. There is that other side of the interpersonal interaction process called trust that eventually kicks in.
I have to confess that I am tough on credibility. I am also a pain in the ass because i like to debate, in an era where the process of debate is being marginalized by soundbite communication or the curse of the modern age, the Internet Meme.
One of the reasons that I left Facebook in May of this year is mainly because my wall was being increasingly dominated by people expressing opinions that were often based on bullshit that they were uncritically repeating. (Memes were being passed around that were easily debunked, sometimes in 90 seconds or less). I was also seeing all of the classic rhetorical fallacies being deployed in discussions by people seeking to justify statements they were publishing. In one or two cases I was specifically warned that I was not to challenge people’s utterances. (Whether or not the people in question really understand social media is another question for another time).
The impact of those behaviors led me to conclude that on many issues related to politics, many of these contributions were unserious and therefore not credible.
One of the enduring fallacies that many people cling to is that admitting to error is a sign of weakness. It is not. The most powerful and credible leaders are the ones that gather people around them and either admit to error and/or ask for help. One of the more revealing aspects of Bill Belichick’s coaching leadership style, shown more than once by NFL Films, is how often he gathers players during a game and essentially says “we are being killed here. Help me. What do we need to do?”. He is both admitting that the coaches do not have all of the answers, and engaging the team in making them part of the solution. It is something that only enhances his credibility.
On the other hand, posting an incorrect or deceitful meme and then engaging in intellectually dishonest defense, with no effort to engage in an honest debate that becomes a mutual learning experience, is an action that reduces your credibility. If you were simply seeking affirmation, then you could say that. It would be a more honest answer than to spin paragraphs of increasingly nonsensical assertions in a vain attempt to support your position.
A lot of people have let their standards of intellectual honesty in discussion and debate drop below what I consider to be an acceptable level during this election season. Whether those people will return to a more sensible level of honesty and good faith after the election season is over is something I will wait to evaluate. If they do not, then a number of them will probably be removed from my Friends list. They will be removed mainly because, on balance, their opinions and ideas are no longer credible.


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