Over the years I have frequently spoken or written about the importance of the Three C’s – Candor, Contrition, and Cooperation – when it comes to appearing before regulators and dealing with professional licensure issues. But the Three C’s are not the only things that are important in those matters, particularly if you are a witness. In early December I attended an excellent National Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) course taught by expert appraiser Mark Munizzo, IFAS, MAI. Among other things, Mark emphasized USPAP’s requirement of “credibility” in appraisal practice. It reminded me that, notwithstanding the Three C’s, a fourth C – “credibility” – is ever-present in professional life.
To me, the word “credibility” has different meanings which depend on its use and context. Several versions of USPAP (yes, a new version comes out every two years) have long defined “credible” simply as “worthy of belief” followed by the explanatory “Comment: Credible assignment results require support, by relevant evidence and logic, to the degree necessary for the intended use.” Black’s Law Dictionary 8th Edition defines credibility as “[t]he quality that makes something (as a witness or some evidence) worthy of belief.” The Collins Dictionary of Law explains “Credibility in the law of evidence, the aspect of evidence, usually the testimony of a witness, such that the fact-finder tells that the evidence can be believed. See also Reliability.” The New Webster’s Thesaurus (which is always on my desk) gives its synonyms as “believable, plausible, probable, reasonable, trustworthy,” and its antonyms as “improbable, incredible, unbelievable.”
These definitions all prompt the question: Believable for whom? Who is the audience? Who makes the judgment that something is credible or worthy of belief? For example, a religious zealot and devout believer may be a credible witness when preaching to an audience made of similar zealots and believers, but not to an audience of composed atheists, or even members of a different religion. True believers are believable to those who want to believe that same truth. Essentially, credibility is in the eye of the beholder. As professionals it therefore remains important to consider who your audience is or might be to ensure that you have taken the necessary steps to be considered credible.