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The Credibility Code: How to Project Confidence and Competence When It Matters Most Paperback – June 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


People make up their mind in a split second whether you have credibility or not. Ms. Alter has compiled a series of specific behaviours that can help in such situations, particularly when you re not feeling at your best. Many people believe that credibility, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. In truth, very specific behaviours lead us to an assessment of credibility, she writes. Three pillars combine to project credibility: a strong posture, a strong voice, and strong eye contact. The book offers tips on how to take control in each area, so you aren t undermining yourself in meetings with colleagues or clients, or in high-profile interviews to gain jobs. The posture code boils down to five essentials: Keep your spine tall and strong. Stand with your weight balanced equally on both feet. Keep your head level. Point your nose directly at the listener. And command the space around you. Strong posture will make you seem more dynamic, she says. It helps to practise. You can check your posture when you're in line at the grocery store, or riding an escalator. You can take a field trip around your office, chatting with colleagues and consciously checking to make sure that your head is level, you are balanced, and your nose is pointed directly at the other party. To build credibility through vocal behaviour, speak with optimal volume, articulate clearly, keep the pacing relaxed, and highlight your message with expression. For most people, the greatest opportunity for growth is in making ourselves more audible. In particular, watch that you don't speak too softly or drop volume at the end of phrases or sentences. In general, the more crisply you enunciate your words, the more intelligent and the more attentive to detail you ll sound, the author adds. The more lazily you articulate your words, the less intelligent and less credible others will perceive you. The most influential vocal skill, she suggests, is resonance. You want a memorable sound, like James Earl Jones or Oprah Winfrey. That comes with engaging your diaphragm, seeking a stronger sound from below. Credibility also requires making and holding eye contact. Ms. Alter notes that this is reciprocal, so if when speaking people aren t looking at you, perhaps you aren t looking at them. Maintaining eye contact also pushes back at our tendency to be self-focused, and automatically turns our focus to the other people we're talking to. When giving a presentation, she encourages you to copy a sheepdog, constantly corralling the wandering sheep. Never let any part of the room go too long without some attention from you, she suggests. Maintain eye contact with everyone, regardless of rank or apparent enthusiasm. You ll seem more like a leader, more inclusive, and more in command. The book covers many important areas, including how to control your gestures; the derailers that can subtly erode your credibility, such as Caroline Kennedy s ums and you knows that cut short her bid for a U.S. Senate seat when Hillary Clinton resigned; and how to find the balance between authority and approachability. The focus is on practical tips and actions to improve, with many case examples that help to clarify where you can go wrong.

Harvey Schachter, Special to The Globe and Mail

--The Globe and Mail

When Cesar Millan, known on TV as the Dog Whisperer, walks into a room full of canines, the four-legged followers know immediately that he's in charge. His voice, his posture and his gestures all convey his top-dog status. But Cara Hale Alter says the two-legged beasts of the world also could learn a thing or two from Millan. Alter, founder and president of SpeechSkills, says that one of the clear things that puts Millan in charge is his lack of head movement. This level-headed position is one of the best ways that Millan conveys his "executive presence" to a pack of dogs exactly what we should be doing in our careers if we want to convey the same thing to the workplace pack, she says. Alter, whose SpeechSkills is a San Francisco-based communications training company, says many people are unaware of such subtle clues. But she has done research on how we all can do a better job of establishing our authority and capability and put it in a new book, The Credibility Code. "Many people are unaware of the negative things they're doing," she says. "They don't understand how their image is being formed by the way they move or speak." Alter offers this advice for those seeking to look more credible: Stop filling in. A stray "um," "uh" or "you know" can make you sound unsure. Instead, don't be afraid to pause while you search for the next word. Don't sound like a teenager. Ending a statement with an upward rise of the voice used to be common among teenagers but has filtered into adult conversation, Alter says. This "up talk" is easy to pick up, so make sure you haven't adopted the bad habit. Try reading an article out loud, making sure you end statement with a downward inflection of your voice. Control your space. Just as Millan conveys authority with little head movement, you can convey more personal power by controlling a tendency to shift your weight from leg to leg or bob your head. Such movements comfort you, but Alter says you appear more calm and confident if you're still. At the same time, stop trying to reduce your presence by tucking your arms to your sides, placing your feet close together or dipping your chin. Those kinds of behaviors say that you feel threatened in your space. Open your posture. If you feel nervous, you may start to play with your clothing or jewelry, clasp your hands or wipe any expression off your face. The more gestures and facial expressions you have, the more comfortable and relaxed you appear. Alter suggests going to places such as a farmers' market or a shopping mall and interacting with others to practice your skills. Once you become more comfortable, you'll be able to use those skills in business settings. Maintain eye contact. Don't drop your eyes in a business setting because you appear to step away from the conversation. Give speakers and listeners your full attention. To practice keeping your eyes at horizon level while speaking, put blank Post-It notes on your office wall. Ask yourself questions and then hold your eyes on the notes while you give an answer. Finally, Alter suggests videotaping yourself to spot conversational glitches or habits that may be undermining your credibility. "I've had a lot of people tell me they don't think they have any issues, and then I film them," she says. "Once they see themselves on camera, then they're very eager for coaching.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett

About the Author

Cara Hale Alter is founder and president of SpeechSkills, a San Francisco-based communication training company. She's spent two decades studying why, among smart, capable people, some project credibility and others don't. As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker, Alter has worked with a wide range of organizations from high tech to heavy machinery, including eBay, Facebook, Google, Caterpillar, Fireman's Fund, Kendall Jackson, Williams-Sonoma, Harvard Medical School, and UC Hastings College of the Law. She is also a popular instructor at Stanford Continuing Studies and UC Berkeley Extension, and has worked professionally as a commercial and voice-over actress.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Meritus Books; First edition (June 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0985265604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0985265601
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In addition to being the author of The Credibility Code, Cara Hale Alter is the founder and president of SpeechSkills, an award-winning San Francisco-based communication training company. With over 20 years of experience, Cara has become the go-to expert for training individuals in the art of projecting confidence and credibility when it matters most: in face-to-face interactions.

Cara's client list includes dozens of Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and Europe, crossing various industries from high tech to finance to heavy machinery. She also provides workshops to numerous educational institutions including Stanford Continuing Studies, UC Berkeley Extension, Harvard Medical School, and Hasting's College of Law.

With a BA in speech communication and an MFA in theatre, Cara Hale Alter has worked professionally as a commercial and voice-over actress, winning national awards for public speaking. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two teenage children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Faculty in California on July 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Cara Alter and The Credibility Code is the real deal. She delivers what many promise but few even understand. Doing what seems the impossible in a short well crafted text, Cara demystifies the nonverbal cues that establish credibility and lead the reader/professional to a clear understanding of the role of habits and behavior in shaping the opinions others hold. Her manner is warm and friendly and full of encouragement.

I've taught acting at Stanford for over two decades and I have yet to see any book that teaches the rules of status in such a clear, concise manner. Along with well defined lessons, the book offers compelling short videos (available using an OCR code to access the clips) that demonstrate the precise idea being studied. You don't need to buy the companion CD . . . it's all included in the text. I watched the videos on my IPhone. It was great. This technology is cutting edge. The videos alone are worth the price of the book. For anyone looking to improve his "stage presence" or her speaking style this is the book. It might change your life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. Livingston on July 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic book. It's the first I've read that actually breaks down what it means to project a professionally confident image into tangible behaviors or "codes of conduct" that just about anyone can understand. Each chapter gives plenty of real-world examples of how each behavior can make or break the image of credibility you project to others. The author describes the various visual and auditory cues (posture, gesture, voice, eye contact, etc.) in a clear and concise way that I immediately recognized, and provides easy actionable exercises that I could begin to practice right away. In addition to the helpful practice and "field trip" exercises, as a visual learner, I found the links to the online videos showing the author demonstrating each behavior to be especially helpful. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve how you are perceived in business - whether at job interviews, participation at staff meetings, or giving presentations to large audiences. The Credibility Code is an excellent read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cecelia on February 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't write many reviews but I just finished "The Credibility Code" and I felt compelled to review it. As a woman, as a professional, I find this book, hands down, the most immediately and easily useful book I have ever read. It is 160 pages of high impact, gold ladened pearls, worth many times the little money and time I spent. I want to read it over and over 'til I've memorized it and practice everything in it until I am transformed by it. Do yourself a favor and Read This Book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jim on July 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a complete handbook on how to package the content of your message. I've spent many hours attempting to craft presentations, interviews, motivational speeches in business, nonprofit, coaching and leadership situations. Mesage content is critical but can be sabotaged by the messenger (in this case, you or me).

In an extremely thoughtful, well researched and highly understandable handbook, Cara pulls back the curtain on secrets of presenting one's self well, in every situation imaginable. The clarity with which she does so, along with the various techniques she employs to convey the essence of her observations to the reader, are brilliantly blended to create a recipe for improving one's own projected image.

Not only are specific techniques identified, their cause and effect are revealed and the keys to being believable are handed to the reader.

To be clear, one must engage. Cara does present all the tools (especially effective is the ability to see her demonstrate the learning points in each chapter online). However, for maximum impact, this is not a "skimmer." Practice, self-awareness, using videos to recognize traits and making one's physical delivery of the message second nature does take some effort on the part of the reader.

The end result is well worth it. Whether meeting someone for the first time, interviewing for the job you crave, taking part in a meeting or presenting to the gathered masses at Yankee Stadium, this will help you do it successfully.

This is the rare author who practices what she preaches perfectly and has, in fact, actually created much of what she is teaching us. Bravo!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dinah Sanders on August 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
There are books with interesting insights into how we form an impression of other people and those with principles of how to carry yourself in front of an audience. Far more rare is the book which has not only all that, but also an actionable plan for identifying your strengths and weaknesses and creating a plan to transform yourself into the successful person you want to be.

Cara Hale Alter's solid coaching--and skillfully enacted examples in the accompanying videos--are far and away the most useful presentation and public presence advice I have ever received. I was a popular presenter at my last company, but the experience of reading this book and of attending one of Ms. Alter's workshops have made it clear just how much more effective I can be. Every chapter will provide insight and inspire positive change.

Even without doing the exercises you can begin to make a difference in the way you project yourself. If you then practice the straightforward suggestions tuned to the areas you wish to improve, you will get those new skills under your skin and reap the benefit henceforth.

This book is going to repay you for its cost and the time you spend on it many, many times over. Highly recommended for anyone who ever talks to anyone!
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