Leadership

These 5 simple body language tricks can help you build trust with anyone

Most millennials have come of age in a world of instant messages, emails and texts. While they're often highly efficient at digital communication, face-to-face interactions don't always come so easily.

Those just starting their careers should be extra careful about the messages they're sending without even saying a word. Your body language can send a message you might not intend about who you are—and you want to communicate that you're reliable and honest.

To get ahead, strong professional relationships are key and those connections are largely built on a perceived level of trust. Within the office, trustworthy people are more likely to be given responsibility and independence.

To this end, pay attention to how you sit and stand. Slumped shoulders, downcast eyes and folded arms might seem harmless but they can convey dishonesty or a lack of self-confidence, according to Kasia and Patryk Wezowski, founders of the Center for Body Language. They can even short circuit a career.

Luckily, simple body language adjustments can help you build trust with anyone, they explain in their book "Master the Science of Body Language and Maximize Your Success."

Here are five simple moves to help you project trust and get buy-in for your ideas:

1. Tilt your head

Tilting your head shows a willingness to adopt a more vulnerable position. "Whenever we want to display trust, commitment, approval or interest, we bare our neck to others," write the authors. "We show that we are ready to listen, without contradiction."

This movement is particularly effective when negotiating or debating with an opponent. Former President Barack Obama often held his head to the side when partaking in political debates.

"In this manner, Obama showed understanding for his political opponents, who demonstrated less hostility and resistance as a result," write the authors. Showing his interest in this way also served to galvanize voters and unite them behind his cause.

US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (L) listens as Republican John McCain makes a point during the final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on October 15, 2008. 
US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (L) listens as Republican John McCain makes a point during the final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on October 15, 2008. 

2. Maintain appropriate eye contact

Maintaining eye contact not only exudes confidence but also builds trust. Research shows that we tend to see people who avert their gaze as less sincere, socially anxious and deceptive. Conversely, we're more likely to believe someone who looks at us directly.

Still, eye contact etiquette is a behavior many people need to learn. Give too much stare time and you can come across as intense. Give too little and you'll seem disinterested or unsure of yourself.

In Western culture, looking your conversation partner in the eye 70 percent of the time is a good guideline to follow. "Any more can be seen as staring and come across as aggressive or just plain weird," write the authors.

3. Open the palms of your hands

Leaders such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg can often be seen with their palms outstretched, when talking to a crowd.

"Open palms are a sign of peaceful intentions," write the authors. "It shows that you have nothing to hide, you're unarmed and you're mentally open to what the other person is saying."

People who keep their palms open are also seen as more credible and easily trusted. This explains why religious leaders show their palms when addressing an audience. On the flip side, liars and double-dealers are "more inclined to keep their hands concealed," note the authors.

Sheryl Sandberg
Getty Images
Sheryl Sandberg

4. Use a glove handshake

A "glove handshake," one that uses both hands, "can be an expression of warmth, trust and kindness toward the person whose hand you are shaking," the authors say.

In this handshake, be savvy about the placement of your left hand, the authors advise. "The higher you place your left hand on the person's right arm, the clearer you make your desire to get closer to [the person] in your relationship." Holding the recipient's elbow, for example, shows more affection than taking hold of their wrist.

Be careful to use this gesture only with people you know and with people where there's a shared warmth. A glove handshake with a stranger could seem out of place and arouse suspicion or distrust.

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Giovanni Rufino | Getty Images

5. Be a mirror

The next time you're chatting with a close friend or a loved one, compare each other's body language. You will likely notice similarities in your posture and body movements.

Mirroring other people's body language can create a sense of closeness and acceptance, one similar to friendship. It also helps to establish a mutual understanding and is one of the "most effective methods for immediately making good contact with others," write the authors.

The next time you meet new people, try matching the position of their arms, the timbre of their voice or even their facial expressions. "After a short time, your conversation partner will subconsciously experience that they feel comfortable with you," the authors write. "This happens because they see their own reflection mirrored in you."

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