Last Updated: Aug 21, 2013
When your customers trust you, they will buy more from you and refer their friends and associates to you. Here’s how you can get people to trust you by using the right body language.
Trust is at the core of every type of human transaction, whether it’s in business, family matters, or with a romantic partner. If you want to get hired, you need to inspire trust. If you want to make a sale, the prospect has to trust you. To get anyone to listen to your message, they have to feel that you’re on their side and won’t double-cross them.
The best way to get someone to like you is to win their trust. Like and trust are first cousins. We generally don’t like people we don’t trust. And we tend to trust people we do like.
You can’t get someone to trust you by saying “Trust me.” In fact, if you say that, they’ll immediately become suspicious of you. The best way to get others to trust you is by using body language.
Experts say it takes anywhere from 5 seconds to 5 minutes to make a first impression. Either way, the process begins immediately–even before you speak. That’s because you’re already communicating–using body language.
Here are a few simple tips and hints for using body language to instill trust right away. Once you have their trust, you’ll have an ally who will be open to hearing your ideas.
1. Give a heartfelt, teeth-showing smile. This says to the other person, “You can relax and feel safe with me.” Women are generally better at this than men. To practice, pretend you’ve just bumped into a great friend you haven’t seen in years, or pretend you’ve been introduced to a famous celebrity you’ve long admired. Reproduce that smile, and for a few days practice using it when you greet people. Pay attention to its effect on them.
2. Add a smile when delivering encouragement. When telling someone you’re glad to meet them, or when praising, complimenting, or congratulating them, always accompany that positive message with a smile that externalizes your inner feelings of joy or genuine warmth and affection for the person. It magnifies your message and makes it more memorable.
3. Use a handshake to intensify the moment. A strong handshake is absolutely essential, no matter what your gender. But this underused gesture is for more than meeting someone the first time. A handshake when ending a conversation delivers a physical punctuation mark that makes your encounter more memorable. Also shake hands when thanking someone, congratulating someone, and completing an agreement. Incidentally, adding your name to your handshake when meeting someone new makes them 75 percent more likely to remember your name.
4. Add an extra second of eye contact when shaking hands. Always look the other person in the eyes for a full second, while smiling, before letting go of your hand. This extra moment has a tremendous impact; it makes you seem charismatic.
5. When listening, complete the “communication circuit” with your eyes. Give face-to-face attention and make eye contact with the person who is speaking. This simple gesture completes the invisible connection between speaker and listener.
6. Maintain eye contact longer than you’re used to. Normally, we maintain eye contact 30-60 percent of the time. When you look at the other person more than 60 percent of the time, it signals that you’re interested and they matter. If you’re having difficulty doing this, lean forward slightly. This posture helps you maintain eye contact. And to give your eyes a break, it’s okay to let your gaze migrate slightly to the eyebrows or the nose area just between the eyes.
7. Mirror the speaker’s sentiments. It’s incredibly affirming for a speaker when the listener shows that he or she is closely following the conversation, and that the speaker’s words are having an impact. You show this by nodding, which says, in effect, “Go on, I’m engaged,” or by making expressions that are aligned with the speaker’s emotions: squinting when the speaker is conveying irritation, frowning when the message is sad, smiling when the message is upbeat, and tilting your head to the left to express empathy.
When you practice and become natural at using all of these body language cues, you will give people reassurance and win their trust. They will view you as a genuine person who is sincerely interested in them. By mastering these simple gestures, you will possess the ability to make allies and be more influential among them.
Related: How the Best Leaders Build Trust, by Stephen M. R. Covey
Marvin Brown is an expert in business communication strategies, a sought-after speaker, and the author of the instant classic How to Meet and Talk to Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime: Simple Strategies for Great Conversations (2013). Learn more at www.howtomeetandtalktoanyone.com.