3 Ways to Build Trust With Your Body Language

UPDATED: January 4, 2023
PUBLISHED: January 4, 2023
two people using trustworthy body language when shaking hands

People tend to overestimate their ability to read others’ faces or body language when determining if someone is trustworthy, psychologists say. Practiced liars can be experts at genuine-seeming eye contact and gestures.

But as unreliable as body language is, it might still be a powerful factor in trust. We’re more prone to like or help people who mimic our nonverbal behavior, psychological studies suggest

Such imitation is just one way to build trust with body language, say Bill Acheson, a nonverbal-communication consultant, and Bob Whipple, a leadership coach and CEO of Leadergrow Incorporated in Hilton, New York. Though the following methods aren’t scientifically proven to spark trust, Acheson and Whipple say they’ve seen them work time and again.

Trustworthy body language when shaking hands

Use just one hand and keep it vertical. A two-handed shake can come across as presumptuous; a palm-down grip as an attempt to dominate, Whipple and Acheson say. Make good “web-to-web contact” and hold the other person’s hand firmly but not bone crushingly. Don’t stuff your other hand in a pocket. Smile “from the heart.” And, yes, make eye contact, especially as the handshake begins.

Do this when speaking or listening

Maintain eye contact most of the time, but not all of the time, which can appear creepily deliberate. Don’t fidget.

Trustworthy body language when standing or sitting

If you’re talking with a man, stand next to him with your body angled slightly toward his, or choose a chair that’s not right across from him. This will strike him as less confrontational than speaking face to face. But stand or sit directly opposite a woman. To her, an approach from the side might feel like an invasion of space.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine and has been updated. Photo by BigPixel Photo/Shutterstock