Trustworthy Body Language. Trust, Dignity and Body LanguageDo you know that your body language communicates what is in your interest?
Trust and body language
How do you know that your body language communicates what is in your interest?
He who hurries can not walk with dignity.
This Chinese proverb underlines what we know of body language. And there is a lot more to say about it.
Oftentimes, what comes out of our mouths and what we communicate through our body language are two different things. When faced with these mixed signals, the listener has to choose whether to believe your verbal or nonverbal message. In most cases, they’re going to choose the nonverbal.
We do this because it’s a natural, unconscious language that broadcasts our true feelings and intentions at any given moment.
When we interact with others, we continuously give and receive wordless signals. The way you listen, look, move, and react tells others whether you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening. Are you sure that your body language communicates what you intend?
Here are some elements of trustworthy body language:
1. Open body language
Open body language is a common cluster of moves that is non-aggressive and trusting, showing that you are relaxed and comfortable.
a. No barriers
Avoiding barriers is the first step in projecting positive body language. Remove all the barriers between you and others. 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 lectern when presenting.
Exposing your body makes you more vulnerable to attack and shows that you trust them. This encourages others to reciprocate and likewise trust you.
b. 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 interpreted as calling for calming down and perhaps to be avoided. Holding the palms sideways, holding something, facing one another is a good neutral.
c. 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.
To help others predict what you will do and gain confidence, display a steadiness in your body language.
a. Steady gaze
Sustain a steady gaze, rather than glaring, looking away or shifty eye movement. Look at them for reasonable periods that show 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 that you are staring) nor narrowing eyes that hide intent.
b. Stable head position
Many people move their heads a lot during a 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.
c. Slower movements
Avoid sudden and unpredictable movements. A 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.
3. Show interest
Show interest and concern about them and their affairs.
a. Leaning Forward
In case you like someone, you want to get closer. The closer you get, the more interested you are. Hence, leaning forward, especially when combined with nodding and smiling, it’s a distinct way to say nonverbally: “Yes, I hear you, keep going!”.
b. Furrowed brow
Your forehead sends significant signals. Raise it to show surprise and question, which encourages them to keep talking without you having to say anything other than non-verbal ah-has and so on. The eyebrows can also be pulled together to show sympathy and concern for their troubles.
Touch is highly variable and often more permissible by women, as male touching can be interpreted more than a dominant power move. Nevertheless, light touching in displays of concern and sympathy can be hugely effective.
4. Show respect
Always show respect for others, even if you disagree with them.
a. Social distance
Maintain an appropriate distance from others, 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.
Be attentive, listening far more than speaking, and asking questions that encourage them to keep talking. Do not press them if they do not want to tell you more.
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.
Even better. Instead of seeing nodding as a technique, node to see the human in your conversational partner.
Let your arms and 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 attacks.
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.
Those who do not speak are not heard, and even those who speak up are not always successful. There are a few more steps that need to be mastered.
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