Trust is at the core of every type of business transaction. When you’re inviting a prospect to a presentation, for example, he or she needs to feel that you’re trustworthy before accepting your invite. If you’re asking a customer to buy your product or service, gaining that buyer’s trust has to come before you even start to pitch your offering.
According to behaviorists, it takes anywhere from 5 seconds to 5 minutes to make a first impression, and the process begins even before you speak. That’s because you’re already communicating using body language.
Here are 7 simple techniques for using body language to instill trust in business settings.
1.Offer an open-lipped, heartfelt smile.
By doing this, you are saying to the other person, “You can relax and feel safe with me.” If smiling broadly doesn’t come naturally to you, practice doing it in the mirror. Then try using this wide-open smile when you greet people. You’ll notice its effect on them immediately.
2.Smile when offering encouragement.
Words can ring hollow when not accompanied by the right facial expression. Telling someone they look great, but doing so with a serious face, can send all kinds of mixed messages… That’s why when you deliver praise, a compliment, congratulations, or encouragement, always accompany that positive message with a big smile. The smile externalizes your inner feelings of genuine warmth and affection for the person. It also makes your words more compelling and memorable.
3. Let your face be a mirror of the speaker’s emotions.
This validates the speaker and shows that his or her words are having an impact. You can do this by nodding, which says, “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.
4. 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 a great deal of 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. Research shows that saying your name with your handshake when meeting someone new makes them 75 percent more likely to remember it.
5. 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. Also, by simply maintaining eye contact longer than usual, it increases the chances that someone will like you.
6. 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. This simple gesture completes the invisible connection, or circuit, between speaker and listener. Once you consciously use your eyes while listening, you’ll become aware of how often you usually look away! Eye contact is critical to great listening.
7. Practice maintaining eye contact longer than usual. Normally, we maintain eye contact 30 to 60 percent of the time. When you look at the other person more than 60 percent of the time, it tells them that 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, try letting your gaze migrate slightly to the eyebrows or the nose area just between the eyes. To the other person, it will still seem as though you’re looking in their eyes.
When you practice and become natural at using all 7 of these body language cues, you will give business associates, customers, and prospects reassurance and win their trust. They’ll view you as genuine and sincerely interested in them.
MARVIN BROWN is an expert in business communication strategies, a sought-after speaker, and the author of How to Meet and Talk to Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime: Simple Strategies for Great Conversations (2013).