Where is your credibility?

The credibility of an L&Der lies in their ability to understand theories about the human condition and adapt them to make them understandable to their audience. This means if I learn about a technique to help improve your understanding of the world, I have to understand its development, its history and its intended usage. I have an obligation to stay true to these teachings and use the knowledge as is intended. That obligation is to honour the work been done before me, to honour the group I’m with in that I am about to share insights they can use, and to honour myself in being able to deliver a strong message.

This pride in my work is vital to my success. It is why I, personally, do not and will not become fully trained in every training theory available. I simply could not and would not do them all justice. I enjoy the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Positive Psychology and in these two areas – and these alone – I have taken the time to become trained in them, read about them, and develop my thinking on them. They are my core and my lifeblood. All other training theories that I come into contact with I treat with utmost respect and do my best to ensure if I’m going to use it, short of attending training, I learn about them as much as is possible.

I have developed my training abilities and skills over the course of some nine years. In that time I have had the good fortune of learning a lot about the human condition, and how to help others improve. I’ve written previously about my success rate in doing this. I also wrote in the same post about what my training has helped me to do. Yet there are independent consultants out there who have not invested their time in the same way. I don’t doubt they are effective in their selected field, but when they choose to willingly flout theories because they do not have the inclination to do their research properly, I question their credibility. I am cautious to note there are some very learned consultants who do not fall into this category. Unfortunately they are the minority.

I have written (almost ad nauseam it feels like) about the misuse of the original piece of work by Albert Mehrabian in the 1960s, which is oft quoted by L&Ders every day. First, if you are a believer in this ‘fact’, please go and watch this video by

Creativity Works. And also this one by

the Dynamic Sale. Both explain very clearly how the work by Mehrabian was not about communication in general. It was, and is, in relation to when you try to understand a message which is emotional in content but there is a mismatch between what is said and how it is said. In these circumstances the percentages (7% of interpretation is derived from the words, 38% of the interpretation is derived from the tone of voice, 55% of the interpretation is derived from facial expression) make sense. For example, in arguing with a partner you ask “Are you upset?” and the answer is, “no”, but you know from the tone of their voice and their facial expression that they are.

I shall say this clearly and with no possibility of ambiguity. If you promote this as fact, and as a core piece of your communication strategy, I will lose all respect for you as an L&Der. Further, I simply will not work with you. If I happen to be in a session you are leading and you use this ‘fact’, I shall debunk the theory openly to the group and reduce all credibility you may have had with the group. I have the inclination to be further rude about this, but am refraining. My ire at this issue does not rest solely with the Mehrabian theory, but with other theories used as well. It is simply that this is the single most abused theory in existence in the L&D and communications world.

For the final say on this, why not read about his work from Albert Mehrabian himself on his website here, or listen to him describing his work here.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “Where is your credibility?”

  1. Love it Sukh! It’s funny how when we “myth-bust” what we find underneath is a truism. In this case, when we perceive a mismatch in what is said we pay more attention to how it’s said.

    The bigger issue here is professional competence. Coaching & Mentoring bodies have been very focussed on this aspect and I wonder if there is a case for L&D (OD?) to adopt similar?

    Here’s the EMCC’s code of ethics. Try replacing the phrase coaching/mentoring with say L&D – a curious exercise!


    1. It’s a great point about professional competence you make here David. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with regards to this issue. L&D doesn’t have a body that takes care of it the way coaching and mentoring clearly do. We get lumped in with the CIPD which isn’t a useful lumping. Watch this space for more thoughts on this…

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