Building Higher Trust 44 Trust and Body Language

We all know that trust is impacted by what people say, but is trust equally impacted by the body language between people?  The answer is “of course.” In this brief article, I will address how sensitive we are to body language and how the wrong body language can destroy hard-earned trust.

Some research

Way back in 1967, a scientist at UCLA named Albert Mehrabian did a series of experiments trying to measure how much meaning people derive from the words, tone of voice, and body language when they are discussing their feelings or attitudes face to face.  His research showed that only 7% of the meaning comes from the actual words used,  38% of meaning came from the tone of voice, and a whopping 55% of meaning is derived from the observed body language.


If we are interested in maintaining the trust we have with people, we should be at least as interested in our body language as we are in the words we select when talking with another person.  The sad truth is that the majority of body language is done involuntarily. We give off hundreds of tiny signals all the time that are reflexive and done without any thought.


We are more conscious of facial expressions than other types of body language. That means we may choose to show anger by furrowing our eyebrows and clenching our teeth. We do these things and are conscious of them, but there are many expressions with the face that we are generally unaware of.  

We might roll our eyes slightly to show exasperation and we might not be conscious of it. Likewise, if we are skeptical about what someone is saying, we may pull our mouth slightly to one side. 

If we are uncomfortable with the discussion, our blinking rate will increase significantly. The other person can see this, but usually, we are not aware of it. If we are aroused, our pupils will dilate without our being aware of it.

All these reactions will have an impact on how much another person trusts us at any particular moment.

Best defense

The best way to prevent trust withdrawals with our body language is to strive to be consistent and authentic with our thoughts and actions.  If we are being duplicitous in any way, it will show in various things that our body does without our knowledge. Those actions will destroy trust.

When we send mixed signals with body language it shows a problem with consistency that usually has a big negative impact on trust. 


Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website   BLOG He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: