At the core of every type of business transaction is trust. You have to be perceived as trustworthy to a prospective employer to get hired. You need to inspire trust if you want a customer to buy from you. To get others to listen to your great business idea, they have to feel that you’ve got their back.
It’s that simple. Trust is key in business relationships. We generally don’t like people we don’t trust. And we tend to trust people we do like.
The odd thing about trust is that, unless you have a long established relationship where you’ve been able to demonstrate your reliability, you really can’t get an acquaintance or relative stranger to trust you merely by saying “Trust me.” In fact, if you say that, they’ll immediately become suspicious!
The best way to get others to trust you is by using body language.
According to behaviorists, it takes anywhere from 5 seconds to 5 minutes to make a first impression. In other words, the process begins immediately–even before you speak. That’s because you’re already communicating using body language.
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Here are some simple techniques for using body language to instill trust in business settings.
1. Give them a open-lipped, heartfelt smile. By doing this, you are saying, “You can relax and feel safe with me.” If smiling broadly doesn’t come naturally to you, practice in front of the mirror. Pretend you’ve just bumped into a famous celebrity or a great friend you haven’t seen in years. For a few days, practice using it when you greet people. Notice its effect on them.
2. Smile when offering encouragement. When you deliver praise, a compliment, or congratulations, always accompany that positive message with a smile. The smile externalizes your inner feelings of genuine warmth and affection for the person. It makes your words more compelling and memorable.
3. Use a handshake to intensify the moment. Everyone knows that a strong handshake shows confidence, no matter what your gender. But handshakes are underused gestures and can add impact to situations other than the initial greeting. For instance, you can end a conversation with a handshake too–and this physical punctuation mark makes your encounter more memorable. Also, shake hands when thanking someone, offering congratulations, and sealing a deal. By the way, saying your name with your handshake when meeting someone new makes them 75 percent more likely to remember your name.
4. Lock eyes for an extra second when shaking hands. Before letting go of someone’s hand, always look the other person in the eyes for a full second, while smiling, before ending the handshake. This extra moment has a tremendous impact; it makes you seem charismatic.
5. Complete the “communication circuit” with your eyes. When another person is speaking, use body language while you listen. Do this by giving them face-to-face attention and making eye contact with the person speaking. This simple gesture completes the invisible connection, or circuit, between speaker and listener.
6. Practice maintaining eye contact longer than usual. 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 tells them you’re interested and they matter. If this is difficult for you, lean forward slightly–this posture helps you maintain eye contact. If you need 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. Let your face be a mirror of the speaker’s emotions. It’s very 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 can show this by nodding, which says, in effect, “Go on, I’m engaged,” or by making expressions that match the speaker’s emotions: frowning when the message is sad, squinting when the speaker is conveying irritation, shaking your head when the speaker is talking about a frustration, 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 business associates, coworkers, clients, and prospective customers reassurance and win their trust. They’ll view you as a genuine person who is sincerely interested in them. By mastering these simple gestures, you’ll be much more influential in all your professional dealings.