How to get people to trust you

I’ve been blogging recently about the relationship between words, physical actions, metaphor and influence.

One expert who really “gets” this, who I had the privilege of meeting recently, is Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language.

Let me share my biggest takeaway from the many useful things he taught me. It’s something I started using straight away and, based on my results, I’m not about to stop any time soon!

Mark says: “The following simple piece of body language, hundreds of thousands of years old and still applicable today, is totally overlooked in understanding by nonverbal communication “experts” and business presentation trainers around the globe. It has, however, been handed down within the community of visual communicators for centuries. Until this point, it has never been put in writing for any business audience…

“So here is that signal that instantly lets the members of an audience know that you are genuine in intention and can be trusted: Gestures on a horizontal plane extending from the navel.

Mark calls this horizontal plane the TruthPlane and adds:

“When the hands gesture within the TruthPlane, an energized calm, confident and balanced effect is felt by both the communicator and the receiver.”

And: “Across all cultures and at all times, it is the strongest symbol for ‘You can trust me’.”

It’s a powerful insight: easy to understand, easy to use. Try it!

(I’d love to hear how it worked for you in the “comments” section below.)

Metaphor and the TruthPlane

The TruthPlane technique is useful in many ways. It’s great to have an extra way to get people to trust you – while incidentally calming any public speaking nerves.

And the TruthPlane is also an interesting example of the relationship between physical actions, metaphor and influence – without words.

  • The action of gesturing in the TruthPlane influences both the actor and the audience.
  • Metaphor “carries” the message, at an unconscious level.
  • For the actor, the action is a metaphor for “energized calm, confident and balanced”. As they make the action, they feel the feeling.
  • For the audience, the same action is a universal metaphor for ‘You can trust me’. As they see the action, they feel the feeling.
  • Neither actor nor audience needs to be consciously aware of the TruthPlane gestures in order to feel the effects. It’s all happening at an unconscious level and so just works.

Advanced exercise: Mark suggests doing contrasting versions of Jamie Smart’s Pizza Walk, gesturing either in the TruthPlane or with your hands down at your sides.

7 Comments

  • Maarten Aalberse

    19/04/2011

    Posted this on FB, first, but don’t like facebook such much as a platform for more serious discussions, so here goes:

    I like the idea that some gestures works both ways. However, since we are not machines, I remain a bit (more than a bit, in fact) sceptical, and worried about how this information (if it turns out to be more than the latest fad) can be abused in exploitative ways by people who don’t deserve our trust and who do not become so easily trustworthy simply by them making gestures in another plane…

  • Maarten Aalberse

    19/04/2011

    PS Judy, i’m not surprized that this worked well… for you.
    Because, unless I’m very mistaken, integrity is an essential value for you. And so, such a gesture would be congruent with this essential dimension of yours – and maybe a good reminder or anchor for that- and credible for your partners.

    I wish I could say that of all negotiators…

  • Judy

    19/04/2011

    Thanks for your confidence, Maarten!
    I’m currently wondering whether “acting trustworthy” would actually be likely to MAKE someone more trustworthy – i.e. that the action actually influences the actor’s self-perception and thus changes their behaviour.

  • Maarten Aalberse

    20/04/2011

    Fake it till you make it?
    Doesn’t that depend on how much the “faking” is “fighting against” (perceptions that contradict the fake, feelings that contradict the fake)?
    What if “acting trustworthy” also implies: “pretending you don’t want to exploit the other”?
    How can we develop a quality without denying those tendencies in us that seem opposite of the quality?

    But I guess you have something else in mind than “fake it till you make it”, such as actively eliciting the other person’s objections to your proposals.
    There I’m with you – and with Linda Schneider.

  • Maarten Aalberse

    20/04/2011

    To come back to the Truth-plane stuff:

    Does making a gesture in the horizontal plane at the level of the navel increase the likelihood that the speaker better cailbrates signs of objections in the listener?
    Frankly, I doubt it.

  • Judy

    21/04/2011

    Hmm.
    “Does making a gesture in the horizontal plane at the level of the navel increase the likelihood that the speaker better calilbrates signs of objections in the listener?”

    I think it probably does. By making the “actor” feel calmer and more confident, it probably quietens their internal dialogue, at least to some extent, and therefore enables them to receive more feedback of all kinds. Whether they act on that feedback, of course, is up to them.

    Mark’s background is in theatre, and now he’s in the business of coaching corporate speakers to convince big meetings of staff or shareholders, so he’s more on the “delivery” side.

    What happens when you test this out for yourself, Maarten?

  • Maarten Aalberse

    21/04/2011

    good question, Judy!

    And…(as you’d say ๐Ÿ™‚ it’s too soon to tell;
    For now it is more distracting from the kind of calibration that we’re talking about than helping.
    Another factor for me: having done tons of bodywork already – and being myopic (with a tendency to forget to look), cues for helping me to look outwards are more helpful for me than gestures that sends me kinestetic messages.
    Didn’t realize this consciously, so thanks for asking!

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