Power of Body Language to Convey Trust at Work

Power of Body Language to Convey Trust at Work
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Are You Familiar with the Power of Body Language to Convey Trust?
During human interaction, words often only scratch the surface of communication. What speaks volumes, often without a single syllable uttered, is our body language. When it comes to creating trust — especially during a sales presentation or a sales call — mastering the art of nonverbal cues can make all the difference. This article helps to decode the subtle nuances of how to understand and use the power of body language to convey trust at work.

The Research Related to The Power of Body Language to Convey Trust
Our microlearning experts point out that much of the conventional wisdom about body language is unsupported by validated research. Nor is there much evidence that buyers across the board look for body language “tells” or take them into account during the solution selling process.  But research does show there are behaviors and gestures that play a role in whether a new prospect considers you to be a trustworthy solution seller or sales presenter.

For example, University researchers at MIT, Cornell, and Northwestern set up an experiment looking at how “novel partners in economic exchange” — basically, people doing business together for the first time — size up their counterparts.  The researchers set up 43 pairs of strangers and videotaped them talking face-to-face for five minutes. Then the volunteers played an economic game, where they offered tokens to one another in a series of sales negotiations.

If both parties trusted one another, they could exchange a lot of tokens and make more money. But if trust was low, people held onto their own tokens and everyone’s gains were limited.  Later, the researchers analyzed the video and found that certain physical behaviors predicted levels of trust in the game.

Lower Levels of Trust
These behaviors were associated with low levels of trust:

  • crossing the arms
  • touching the face
  • touching the hands together
  • leaning back in the seat

Higher Levels of Trust
And these were associated with higher levels of trust:

  • Smiling
  • Leaning forward
  • Nodding the head

It won’t come as a surprise to sales managers that salespeople should smile, nod, and lean in when they’re talking to ideal target clients. But a few of the “low trust” behaviors seem less intuitive — what is it about touching your hands together, touching your face, or leaning back that could create distrust with a new prospect? And is there a larger principle at work here?  There is.

Avoidant vs. Affiliative Behaviors
The researchers noted that all of the behaviors that eroded trust were examples of “avoidant” behavior. They literally create barriers and distance. The positive behaviors, on the other hand, were examples of “affiliative” behavior — they signal a desire to connect with the other person.

And that’s the real takeaway from this study. It’s not simply a matter of trying to remember a set of behavioral do’s and don’ts. It’s about your intentions. If you approach your prospect with an “affiliative” mindset — I like you, I want to work with you, I want to help you — your body language will project that attitude.

But if you allow yourself to slip into a more avoidant or defensive mindset – for example, if you’re worried about rejection or assume that the prospect will be suspicious of your motives – your words, actions and even tone of voice will give you away. And that could sabotage a potentially great relationship.

The Subtle Signals of Trust
Picture this: a firm handshake, a genuine smile, and direct eye contact. These seemingly simple gestures carry profound implications in the realm of trust. Research suggests that individuals who exhibit open, expansive postures are perceived as more trustworthy and competent. It’s as if our bodies intuitively understand the language of trust, signaling assurance and reliability to those around us.

The Power of Presence
In the fast-paced world, cultivating a sense of presence amidst the chaos is paramount. Whether it’s leaning in attentively during a conversation or maintaining an open posture, our physical demeanor speaks volumes about our commitment and engagement. Renowned social psychologist Amy Cuddy famously coined the term “power posing,” advocating for adopting expansive postures to not only exude confidence but also foster trust in others.

Authenticity: The Cornerstone of Trust
At the heart of trust lies authenticity – the genuine expression of our thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Our body language serves as a mirror, reflecting our innermost authenticity to the world. From subtle nods of agreement to genuine displays of empathy, authenticity shines through in every gesture, building bridges of trust between individuals.

The Bottom Line
We know from sales leadership simulation assessment data that those who master the art of nonverbal cues, cultivate authenticity and forge connections that transcend words alone. Remember that our bodies speak volumes — and it’s up to us to ensure that they speak the language of trust and customer-centricity.

To learn more about how to influence with integrity, download Organizational Savvy – How to Understand Workplace Politics to Influence Others

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