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Trustworthy Body Language

 

Techniques > Using Body Language > Trustworthy Body Language

Open | Steady | Concerned | Respectful  | See also

 

A key question when interacting with others is how you can get them to trust you. A subtle way is by shaping the body to indicate that you can be trusted.

Open

Open body language is a common cluster of moves that is non-aggressive and trusting, showing that you are relaxed and comfortable.

No barriers

Remove barriers between you and them. Barriers include in particular crossed arms and legs, but can also include physical items you are holding or you have placed between you (such as a table).

Exposing your body makes you more vulnerable to attack and shows that you trust them. This encourages them to reciprocate and likewise trust you.

Open palms

Do not clench your hands like fists as this sends signals of aggression or concealed tension. Leave your palms open and relaxed (do not stretch them far).

Palms up is open, offering (but can be pleading). Palms down is often 'calm down' and perhaps to be avoided. Palms sideways, holding something, facing one another is a good neutral.

Open face

Keep your face open too. This means sustaining a relatively relaxed expression without extremes and certainly without signs of anger, fear, boredom and other emotions that do not encourage trust.

Hold your head up rather than looking away or down. This lets them see your expression and realize that you are not a threat.

Steady

To help them predict what you will do and gain confidence, display a steadiness in your body.

Steady gaze

Sustain a steady gaze, rather than glaring, looking away or shifty eye movement. Look at them for reasonable periods that shows your interest, though with occasional looking away to avoid it seeming like a stare.

A gaze holds eyes open at a natural level, not showing the whites around the top and bottom (indicating a stare) nor narrowing eyes that hide intent.

Stable head

Many people move their heads a lot during conversation, but if you look at respected leaders you may notice their heads move very little, as if they are deeply interested in the other person.

Slower movement

avoid sudden and unpredictable movements. Sudden movement may appear as a threat or that you are stressed (which makes them wonder why).

Move smoothly and perhaps slower than you might otherwise, without stretching joints or bending them far, so you describe rounded, rather than angular, motion.

Concerned

Show interest and concern about them and their affairs.

Body tilt

Tilt your head or body forward to show interest in them. This can be down both when speaking and especially when listening, when it may seem you are straining to hear every nuance of what they say.

Furrowed brow

Your forehead sends significant signals. Raise it to show surprise and question that encourages them to keep talking without you having to say anything other than non-verbal ah-has and so on. Brows can also be pulled together to show sympathy and concern for their troubles.

Touching

Touch is a highly variable and often more permissible by women as male touching can be interpreted more as a dominant power move. Nevertheless, light touching in displays of concern and sympathy can be hugely effective.

Respectful

Always show respect for the person, even if you disagree with them.

Social distance

Maintain an appropriate distance from them, close enough to show interest, yet not so close that you appear threatening or are attempting intimacy.

Angling the body to them is also less threatening, but also invites others to join in (so sometimes standing face-to-face is better).

Attentive

Be attentive, listening far more than speaking and asking questions that encourage them to keep talking (although do not press them if they do not want to speak more).

Talk to help or entertain them, but keep the attention on their pleasure and comfort rather than satisfying your own personal needs.

Nodding

A simple technique is to nod when they are talking, in particular as they are explaining things and more when they have completed. Nodding shows you agree and are accepting them as well as what they say.

Aligned

With words

Let your arms hand loosely or move gently in time with your words to help signal trustworthy intent. Move more urgently to signal importance.

Remember to keep open even when you are passionate, avoiding fists, sudden movement and other shapes that may be interpreted as 

With your body

Shape your body to align with their body to reflect high alignment with them, but beware of too obvious mirroring. Watch also for them doing the same back (try changing your body slightly and see if they follow).

See also

Attentive Body Language, Building Rapport

 

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