You send people signals all day, without paying attention to them. The way you move your eyes, the way you shake a hand and so on. There are things you can do to send subconscious signals using body language that make people like you better, or at least give you the benefit of the doubt. Whenever I discuss techniques like these there are always one or two people who feel uncomfortable with ‘influencing’ someone with psychological tricks.
When you hear the word manipulation, you may immediately think of negative things. Please don’t.
Manipulation is not bad. People with bad intentions are bad.
Bad people are bad. Bad people who manipulate are problematic. An example of this:
Manipulation can make everyone in a situation better off.
The problem with the Mean Girl example is not the manipulation, the problem is bad intentions and lying.
I’m assuming you will use these tricks with good intentions. Please do so.
The human mind is judgmental, it’s what it does. It is what kept us alive during evolution.We make judgments in split seconds:
Pay attention to this instinct, but never act on it without knowing the person better. The tricks below will trigger you to behave in ways that are perceived well.
This section is not strictly about body language, but these attitudes will subconsciously influence your body language.
This one is so important it requires its own article, and you can never do this 100% of the time. Plus, there are certainly cases where not seeming confident can gain you likability points, but on average, the above holds true.
There are two things to consider with this point:
Why burn bridges before you’ve made them in the first place? It makes no sense:
You will notice soon enough if this person would/wants to be a good friend.
Again, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by treating people with respect. That doesn’t mean you should kiss boots all day; it means you shouldn’t dismiss anyone or make them feel unimportant.
Strangers deserve to have the benefit of the doubt. In our world anyone can be anything, without looking like it. I’ve met douchebags who looked kind and billionaires that behaved like excited children. Look at the cover of the book, but read a few pages before judging.
Neither the douchebag or billionaire are ‘better’ than each other. But being around one made me feel unhappy, and the other made me feel gusto and enthusiasm.
When you meet someone, don’t think ‘what can they do for me?’ but rather ‘what can I do for them?’ Helping people is the best way to make them want to help you, and everybody wins.
Note that I’m not saying you should give unsolicited advice to make yourself seem smart. Help people if you genuinely and truly believe this person’s life would be better with the knowledge/help/contact that you can offer.
Offer help, but don’t insist. Keep it short and let them decide.
Your body is constantly signalling the people you meet. Posture influences the snap second judgement people make about you, but also what you think about yourself. In addition, proper posture is good for your back, what’s not to like?
To find positive posture, try the following:
When you start sitting up straight, you will notice how small most people make themselves. You will instantly feel quite tall when sitting at a table. Keep your back straight, but relax as much as possible.
Your abs, back and general core should never be flaccid/floppy when you stand or sit. Keep your abs and core in general under some tension. Not only does it reflect well upon your posture, but it also makes it easier to move with grace.
The stance of your feet says a lot about you. It’s not an exact science, but putting your feet closer together generally signifies insecurity, whereas a wider stance indicates confidence.
Both holding your feet too close together and too far apart can reflect badly upon you. Try to aim for a position where your feet are at hip width or slightly wider apart, but not much.
The moment you enter a room is the moment you expose yourself to the judgement of the people in that room. Make sure to make use of that.
Some would recommend more extreme techniques like peacocking, but that doesn’t apply to all situations.
Regardless of whether you are, smile when you enter a room. Smile like you really like what you are seeing. Don’t overdo it, don’t laugh out loud. Smile like you stepped outside and noticed the sun was shining.
Not explicitly. Don’t shout “HEY!” or draw explicit attention unless these are people who appreciate such behavior. Otherwise take a moment to stand still or walk slowly while looking at the people in the room.
Don’t glance over the crowd like it’s an object. Look people in the eye and if anyone holds your gaze smile at them. Make people feel like a positive influence just entered this room.
This shows confidence, but also signifies an open attitude.
Humans are hard-wired to like and/or respect people with friends. When you walk into a room and do your usual ‘greet the crowd’ routine, follow it up by waving to your friends and mouthing something along the lines of “I’ll be right there”.
Here’s the thing, feel free to do this to imaginary friends. I do this all the time at bigger events. Keep in mind that people don’t see 360 degrees. If you wave to an non-existent person behind them they don’t know you are just waving to empty air.
This has a number of effects:
The trick here is to do this in full confidence, don’t timidly wave. Wave like your best friend is across the room and you are trying to communicate to them that you’ll be there soon.
Men, especially, are sensitive to the way you shake a hand. A weak or ‘dead fish’ handshake will instantly lose you likability points.
Looking away automatically signifies negative things:
Look into someone’s eyes long enough to memorize their eye color. Don’t stare, just observe for a moment.
When looking into someone’s eyes during the shake, smile as if you saw something in their eyes that makes you happy.
Don’t laugh out loud, just smile.
How and where you position yourself makes a difference in how you are perceived. Positioning combined with posture is very powerful.
When you are talking to someone, position your body in such a way that you are open to them. Preferably position yourself in a ‘vulnerable’ way. Don’t cover your chest with your arms, don’t slouch etc. This signifies trust and comfort.
It is a subtle change, but making sure that your body is ‘pointing’ to your conversational partner makes a difference. Angling away can signify fearfulness, insecurity and mistrust.
Leaning on/against an object (e.g. a wall) signifies passivity and possibly insecurity. Whenever you can stand up with good posture. Using the tips from the posture section, try to develop a comfortable ‘neutral stance’.
If you do have to lean against something for whatever reason, keep good posture. Don’t slouch.
Your face is an area with a lot of signalling. In fact there is a lot of research into micro expressions people make subconsciously. People project a lot of information without knowing it. You can use your face to signal information about yourself to people.
Ever heard of ‘resting bitch face syndrome’? Some people claim their face at rest looks annoyed/angry, which makes people perceive them as a social danger. You preferably wouldn’t talk to a person with that kind of an expression on their face.
It says nothing about the actual person though. But it does disadvantage them.
Make sure that your face at rest (e.g. when you are working on a laptop) looks relaxed, if not happy. An easy trick is to have a look on your face like something is mildly amusing to you.
People have a habit of looking away if they meet a person’s eyes. Try not do do this. Keep eye contact, and smile. Often people will look away, though some people will hold your gaze.
Doing this has multiple effects:
Please note that when you hold someone’s gaze, be sure to smile. Looking impassively can be very creepy…
There is a very simple trick to smiling: imagine you are seeing something you really like.
Smiling is not about moving your face in a certain way, it is about feeling a happy feeling and letting your face express it.
Read more about how to smile in this Buffer article..
Here I cover some things you can do that often involve some measure of interaction with your conversational/communication data.
A powerful technique that has been researched a lot is mirroring. This means people feel more comfortable around you and like you better if you stand the way they do. For example:
The key here is not to be obvious. The moment they notice consciously what you are doing, the technique loses power.
As with the above point, you shouldn’t be obvious. But little things can go a long way:
Again, don’t be obvious and don’t be a creep. This technique should be used in an unobtrusive manner, but frequently.
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