Body Language 96 Lasting Relationships

October 13, 2020

For the final few articles in this series on body language, I am highlighting some of the excellent content in a program entitled “Advanced Body Language” by Bill Acheson of the University of Pittsburgh.

In this article, I will summarize his research on Forming Lasting Relationships quickly. I dealt with this topic from my own observations in an earlier article entitled “Planting a Seed of Trust in the First 10 Seconds.”  Bill’s take on the subject parallels my remarks and goes deeper in some areas.

 

First of all, Bill says that we form a first impression of another person extremely fast, and it is based on three factors that we judge very quickly: 1) Trustworthiness, 2) Competence, and 3) Likability.

Trustworthiness

The first observation is that you cannot project trustworthiness verbally. It must be done with some form of action or gesture where you are demonstrating that you will do exactly what you say. You will not spin the truth and will be transparent with information.

That is kind of a difficult thing to do when first meeting an individual, so let me share an example from my own background.  I once met a person who said he was interested in the topic of trust.

I was a speaker at a conference, and this individual approached me. I told him that I had an article I would send to him that had great content to answer one of his questions. I asked him for his card, and he saw me write down a message to myself on the back to send him that particular article.

This little gesture let him know he could count on me to follow through, so I suspect my trustworthiness level likely went up in his mind.

Competence

Here, Bill quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Another way to say that is, “Actions speak louder than words.”

He makes the observation that men have the ability to project personal power in a business setting with greater accuracy than women. He describes several male behaviors that signal personal power.  For example, if a man sits with noticeably relaxed muscle tone, it demonstrates absence of fear. Lack of fear is coupled with trust, so it is a gesture that connotes power and security.

A backward body lean is another indication of being relaxed, which translates into a gesture associated with personal power. This is also true for body asymmetry with one hand up and the other hand down.

Another example is expansiveness; he takes up a lot of room.  He spreads things out on the table in front of himself or sits in a meeting with his arm on an adjacent chair.

A third give away is sitting with legs crossed in what is known as the “aristocratic leg cross” with one leg on top of the other rather than an ankle to the knee, which is how the majority of men sit. Bill cites that for men over the age of 45, only 12% of them will sit with one leg atop the other. Bill says it is the single most accurate predictor of high social status and high net worth.

For women to project personal power, Bill makes three observations. The first is that hair and power are inversely proportional. As women move into positions of higher power, they tend to cut their hair shorter and closer to the head.

A second observation is that women, when projecting personal power, often do what is called a “reverse steeple” with their hands.  Men will often steeple with finger tips together pointing upward and palms apart. The female power position is with fingers together pointing downward and palms apart.

He says the dichotomy between attractiveness and power means that to increase one, you tend to reduce the other; “It’s a zero-sum game.” The implication here is that for a woman to project personal power she will often sacrifice some femininity.

Likability

Here, the issue revolves around communication style.  Bill notes that in study after study the highest rated communicator says the fewest number of words.  He makes a very strong statement that “You are now, and you will continue to be paid based on your ability to LISTEN.”

He suggests that the most important behavior for a listener is silence.  It is so obvious that we tend to forget.

He said that in order to generate instant rapport with an individual you are just meeting, just walk up and give a four-word command: “Tell me about yourself.” Then shut up and listen.

Bill also points out that when meeting another person, you want to maintain roughly 70-80% eye contact.  Less than 70% eye contact and the other person will not trust you. He stresses that it important to break eye contact at least once a minute.  To stare at another person for more than a minute, it is creepy and actually can destroy trust.

These points are quite similar to the ones I have anecdotally observed myself, but Bill has done enough research to back up the theory with data.

Not all of the points mentioned here apply in all situations. As with all body language, there is room for individual differences, and the magnitude of the gestures will depend on the specific situation.

 

 

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”

 


Trust is Bilateral

June 27, 2015

small babies twins on parental hands isolated on white backgrounMy daughter taught me a vital lesson about trust when she was four years old. I used to travel a lot for work, and when I would come home exhausted from a week on the road, she would run up to me and shout “Daddy, Daddy, twirl me.”

I would grab hold of her little wrists being careful to not jerk them, and rotate backward lifting her off the ground. She would laugh and giggle as I rotated her around for 15 seconds, then when I set her down, she would always say “Again!”

So I would pick her up and do it all over. The lesson she taught me is that of all the times I twirled her, I hardly ever dropped her.

Because she was trusting me with her life, I was compelled to rise to that level of trustworthiness and protect her.

The lesson she taught me was that trust is bilateral. If we want to receive more trust in our lives, we need to find ways to show more trust in other people.

I have come to call this phenomenon “The First Law of Trust.”

If you are not happy with the level of trust you are seeing from other people, the first thing to do is find ways to show more trust in them.

That may seem illogical, but it actually works. Trust given to others reflects back to us every time.

A conundrum for leaders is that not all employees are trustworthy. Surely I am not recommending that a leader trust someone who has consistently shown that he or she is not capable of rising to an acceptable level of performance.

Of course not! You would not trust a young biology student to perform open heart surgery on you. Instead you can find some way to extend some measure of trust that the person can achieve. You might trust the biology student to complete his homework assignment tonight.

With reinforcement and shaping of behavior, I believe it is possible to make solid gains over time toward more trustworthy behavior. Enough assignments along with specific training in school and as an intern means eventually the young student can be trusted to perform surgery.

The exercise for today is to find several ways you can show higher trust in other people. Often very small gestures can make a big difference in starting a new momentum of trust between people.

For example, you might allow them to try something that previously you always did yourself. You don’t need to take reckless chances with the extension of trust, but do allow your creativity to think about what might be a reasonable way to show higher trust.

Extending more trust is one of the best ways to obtain more trust yourself.

Most people forget this simple rule. Even when it seems people cannot be trusted, if you find small ways to show more trust in them, they will inevitably rise up and become more trustworthy. Try it, and you will see great progress in your relationships.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to http://www.avanoo.com/first3/517


Trust is Ubiquitous

June 13, 2015

Trust, Colorful words hang on rope by wooden pegMost people think of trust as a concept between themselves and the people they know.

Of course that is true, but that viewpoint is only a tiny part of how pervasive trust is in our lives. Trust is in the fabric of just about everything you do.

When you start your day, you go through several rituals of cleaning your body, getting dressed and groomed, feeding yourself, locking up your abode, and transporting yourself to your place of work.

By the time you get there, you have already experienced trust several hundred times.

You cannot turn on the shower without trusting the water system. Every time you go over a bridge, you are trusting that you won’t end up in the river. When you take a vitamin pill, you must trust the people in the drug company that made the pill.

On and on all day long, you instinctively experience trust and rarely think of it unless there is a power failure or something drastic happens in your environment that prevents you from trusting.

For all of us, trust in our lives is far more complex and ubiquitous than we recognize.

Since we are expert at trusting the things in our lives, it is ironic that trusting other people can sometimes be a major hurdle.

We need to recognize that trust is present every moment of every day, and we need to manage our feelings about trust with other people and even trust in ourselves.

By becoming more cognizant and appreciative of the role of trust in our lives, we gain a stronger grasp of the nature of it and the role it plays.

Exercise for you: For the next day, try to visualize how trust is working in your life. Experience the role of trust not only in your personal relationships but also in your everyday activities. Try to imagine what life would be like if you did not trust, in those moments that you absolutely need to. How would you cope?

This series of short articles over the next several weeks will illuminate dozens of aspects about trust that are often taken for granted but that have a profound impact on every one of us and the lives of others we know and love.

We will mostly deal with interpersonal trust in this series, but realize the topic is much broader, and often the more abstract types of trust end up influencing the trust we have in others and ourselves.

During this series, you will learn how to build more trust with the people you work with, and the people at home. You will begin to have a greater appreciation for the role that trust can play, and harness it to create astounding results in your life.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to www.avanoo.com/first3/517


Great Leadership Revolves Around a Single Concept

June 6, 2015

circular arrows  icon, vector illustration. Flat design styleAs a young boy, the study of leadership was fascinating to me. It seemed important to know what distinguished the great leaders from the many individuals who try hard but never measure up to greatness. My early years were spent observing leaders but not finding answers to the true key to leadership.

After starting my career, the study of leadership became more pressing. Reading numerous books and taking courses or watching videos pointed me in the right direction.

I was mentored by the great leadership gurus of all time: people like Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, John Maxwell, Brian Tracy, and hundreds of other authors.

The most important lessons came when my team created a leadership laboratory in the areas that reported to me at work. For over 30 years we learned from each other the most important lessons about leadership.

In the final analysis, we discovered that there are hundreds of behaviors that constitute great leadership, but all of them are enabled by just one concept.

That concept is trust.

Leaders who create high trust enable other engagement activities to work like magic, but leaders who fail to generate high trust work like crazy on all the other behaviors without much success.

Trust becomes the golden key to the door of great leadership.

If you know how to create trust, your success as a great leader is assured. If you do not have the ability to generate high trust, you will be locked out of the halls of great leadership.

Spend some time today thinking about how well you currently do at building and maintaining trust in your organization. If you are honest with yourself, the answer will be obvious in how others interface with you daily.

Low trust is easy to spot, and so is high trust. For example, low trust is often evident in body language where people find it difficult to look each other in the eye.

There is a lot of gossip, and people say things in one venue that are different from what they say somewhere else. With high trust, communication is more genuine, and leaders can readily admit mistakes without loss of respect by their subordinates.

In the coming weeks you can read several articles about trust right here. We’ll discuss what trust is, how to achieve it, how to repair it when compromised, and how to use it to create an excellent organization.

We will discuss how creating an environment of low fear is the great enabler of trust within any group. My favorite quotation on the Leadergrow website is;

“The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

When people know it is safe to voice their opinions without the worry of being reprimanded, then trust grows quickly.

 

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to www.avanoo.com/first3/517


Trust Withdrawal Ripples

August 10, 2013

water droplet emergingI liken the degree of trust between individuals in an organization to a bank account. There is a current balance of trust that is the result of hundreds of transactions (deposits and withdrawals) that occur between individuals on a daily basis. In my analogy, it is easy to make small deposits in the account. For example, doing what you said you were going to do is a small deposit in trust. Praising another person is another way to make a small deposit.

Large deposits are more difficult to make because they often require a special circumstance. For example, if I go into your burning house to save your dog, that is a huge trust deposit because I risked my life to retrieve something of value to you.

Making withdrawals, either large or small, is just as easy as the deposits. I call it “The Ratchet Effect,” when someone who had built up a large balance in the trust account wipes it out with a single major withdrawal. In this article I will share some observations on how trust withdrawals spread like the ripples in a still pond when you drop a stone in it.

A withdrawal is usually between individuals, although it is possible to make a withdrawal with several individuals with a single action. Let me use an example of a withdrawal to illustrate my point.

Suppose you are a manager of a group, and there is a need to appoint a new supervisor to work under you. You have asked several group members to interview candidate supervisors and make a recommendation. They spend a week interviewing five potential candidates: two internal to the organization, and three outside resources. The team comes back with a firm recommendation that Sally, one of the internal candidates, is by far the best match for the job. This puts you in a no win situation because your boss is demanding you appoint Mark, his son-in-law, from outside the organization. You make an announcement that Mark will fill the vacant slot, and the entire workforce is very upset.

They believe your willingness to have them interview candidates was just window dressing, and you knew all along who would be selected. In reality, until your boss spoke up yesterday, you also would have selected Sally for the promotion. Your boss demanded that you not tell anyone why you selected Mark or you would lose your position. What happens is a loss of trust for you on the part of most individuals on the team, but that is not the end of the damage in this case.

Without the ability for you to explain that the choice was out of your hands, but you did not know that until late in the process, the problem becomes bigger. The upset individuals will freely express their lack of trust in you. There will also be an undertow of resentment on the part of Sally, which may cause behaviors that lower her future potential. The ripple effect will carry over as Mark tries to gain credibility as the new supervisor. People will undermine every effort he makes regardless of his skill or sincerity. Your boss is going to be suspect, even though you do not tell people directly that Mark was his choice, not yours. Blatant nepotism is easy to spot, and people will figure out the connection quickly through online searches. You will be blamed for allowing it to occur.

Now the rumor mill picks up the chant, and the damage begins to spread throughout the organization and beyond. Incidentally, your sin usually grows in severity as the rumors persist. You may never know the extent of the compromise to your reputation from a single situation. It is vital to watch the body language of people with whom you interface to identify when something is wrong but they are not telling you overtly. You will sense a certain coolness and loss of eye contact. You may observe more side conversations than usual.

When you see signs of a change in attitude toward you, it is important to stop and ask questions until you get to the bottom of the issue. Usually you can get at least one person to open up in private about what others are saying. In this example, your hands were tied in terms of what you can say, but there is still the ability to observe people and ask questions. Then you can take some prudent mitigating actions as early as possible to preserve as much trust as you can. By taking humble corrective actions near the time of an infraction, you can prevent the ripples from spreading.