How to Make Others Trust You

I can personally vouch for three methods. They work. And it ‘s a good job they do too. We could accomplish little in life without trust. Trust is the glue that binds us together.


I extol the virtues of active listening and open-ended questioning as the main stays of inter-personal communication. They are necessary; they are not sufficient. If you use them in total isolation then there is the danger that you will be perceived as interrogating a suspect rather than building rapport. The person on the receiving end will feel attacked and vulnerable. The information flow is one way.

Self-disclosing is using a personal revelation (of feelings, shortcomings, private thoughts, proprietary information, etc) to influence greater openness and confidence between the other person and yourself. For instance, in a conversation you might say something like, I ‘m still quite nervous when I ‘m about to present an idea to someone more senior

Such self-disclosure is a powerful tool for building bridges with people and developing rapport. It works because it conveys your human side. Self-disclosure signals your willingness to trust the other, since you ‘re conveying something personal, something private, about yourself. And in doing so, you are influencing the other person to reciprocate with a similar level of self-disclosure, thereby creating a deepening level of revelation and openness.

Methods of self-disclosure in everyday dialogue are many and varied. At its most basic, it can involve sharing private information with another. I don ‘t mean giving your life-story to the person in the canteen queue. The level of information disclosed should be appropriate and gradual. A little deeper is disclosing your feelings or evaluation of something. In doing so you are sharing more of yourself. The deepest sort of self-disclosure includes admitting one ‘s mistakes and shortcomings, and even admitting the need for help.


In psychology, mirroring is the whole process of imitating someone with the purpose of acquiring empathy and connection i.e. ‘rapport building ‘. This matching of your body language to the person to whom you are speaking can include body posture, movement, voice tone and tempo, and even breathing rate.

I would describe mirroring as ‘synchronised non-verbal communication ‘. It indicates maximum communication with the other person. If you move your arms apart, opening your palms, and they do the same, you are both in synch. The messages and the words of the conversation are being received and accepted by the other. Behaving in a way that is deliberately similar to the other person ‘s behaviour is called ‘pacing ‘.


The final way to build trust cannot be taught in an internet blog or a training workshop. Yet it is the strongest of all. It means doing what you ‘d said you would do. If you don ‘t do this, no amount of fancy techniques of speech or body language will be of any assistance to you.

The ancient Greeks said that there were three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos and logos. We would call these ethics, emotion and argument. And the greatest of these, both then and now, is ethics.

Fear, Obligation and Guilt

Often our lives are characterised by FOG: fear, obligation and guilt. In many cases, this involves other people. That is what this blog post deals with. It concerns how to limit fear to the unavoidable, remove obligation when it is incorrectly placed and replace guilt when it is unjustified.


Who are you afraid of? Are family, friends or co-workers controlling you with your own fear? Does their behaviour, words, silent treatment, lies, or manipulation make you fearful? If you are aware of it, you can do something about it.

If the other person is aware of it, and continues to threaten (whether silently, or in words), this is called bullying or emotional abuse. Sufferers say often more damaging, long-term, than physical violence. And, in the realm of those who help men and women with domestic abuse, emotional abuse is subsumed under the heading of domestic violence. It is often likely to lead to it, and when emotional abuse is present, violence is likely to be too. A note of caution. If you have been physically threatened and are afraid of someone, or have already suffered at their hands, this is entirely different. Organisations such as Women’s Aid and, recommend removing yourself from that situation. Don’t live in fear of your life, or physical safety, or that of your children or other dependants. There are many organisations who will help you escape from this precarious situation.

Take advice from professionals who are practised at dealing with victims.

Never forget that the more you fear someone, the more power it gives them.

Violence aside, that ought to make you angry enough to actively and consistently change that emotion when it surfaces, from fear to pity or, better, indifference.

Techniques for Limiting Your Fear of People

  1. Attend an Assertiveness course, and learn how to communicate assertively, avoiding both aggression and passivity. Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence is one of our most popular workshops. Learn how to deal with those who would aggressively demand your obedience. You are an adult, you are entitled to your rights, you have responsibilities. Learn this and never be successfully bullied again. Yes, people won’t like you. However, being liked is not the goal. (In Northern Ireland, we are taught from a very young age not to flaunt our passion, opinion, emotions, or knowledge. Expect that when you begin to practice assertive communication, many will interpret your directness as aggression.) The point of assertive communication is to get your point across clearly, and succinctly. It does not involve shouting, bullying or manipulation. We recommend this: The Assertiveness Pocketbook.
  2. Limit the amount of time you spend in that person’s company. In many cases, this is achievable. If you cannot avoid them when you want to, for example in the workplace, then devise ways of limiting the contact. This may mean shorter meetings, moving desks, changing shifts, restructuring the team, or applying for a transfer. The less you see that person, the less damage they can do. The more astute will realise why you are spending less time allowing them opportunities in which they can attempt to manipulate you. This is especially effective if combined with assertive communication when you are forced to spend time with them. They will see less of you, and what they do see, is positively different.
    This is one example of setting boundaries around your time. We highly recommend Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries, which deals with protecting you and yours using boundaries.
  3. If your fear is one where you are paralysed in the company of more than a few colleagues, take it one step at a time. One of the best ways of overcoming debilitating shyness is to begin practising on strangers. Chat to the guy in the paper shop, or have a longer conversation than is necessary with a random stranger at the bus stop. This helps build up your repertoire of things to talk about, and makes you realise that you can participate in an interesting conversation after all. Learn to use body language, clothing, smiles, handshakes to create an air of confidence, and fearlessness. The feelings will come later, but the appearance of confidence is achievable. With success, comes the positive emotion of confidence, which in turn fuels the next encounter. We recommend The Confidence Booster Workout.


Who “makes” you feel obliged? A demanding boss? A lazy co-worker who will show up the team, if you fail to step in and cover up for her? An immature parent? A whinging child?

Are you the person who sorts things out? Gets things done? Fixes whatever, and whoever, is broken? Takes care of things no-one else will?

If your life is taken up with rescuing other people, then you’re heading for depression.

How do I know? Because I sometimes work with those who deal with depression sufferers. Besides, I’m the Rescuer personality type and I know what it feels like to be consumed with wanting to help fragile victims, taking on the heavy, emotional baggage they inevitably carry around. And, because I see the Rescuer type every day.
They’re physically exhausted. And, mentally?

Far from feeling benevolent toward the person they’re rescuing from their own problem, inadequacy or laziness, they most often resent them!

Techniques for Limiting Obligation to Your Genuine Responsibilities Only

You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

You have the right to say, “I don’t care”.

  • Now, go back and read the rights again. Ponder what each one would look like in your life.

From now on, take care of those things you know are your real responsibilities, and ignore those that others place unfairly upon you. This is not a licence to drop your responsibilities. On the contrary, it is a license to take up those responsibilities and carry them out, unfettered by the illegitimate obligations placed on us by others.


What if you don’t do something for someone? Are you taken over by guilt? Do you groan at the consequences?

If I don’t do this for her, then she’ll suffer! If I don’t help out, then no-one else will!

Did you ever stop to think that it is not within your circle of concern what the consequences are? And, sometimes it is not even within your circle of influence! It only appears so, because you have allowed someone else to determine it for you.

Techniques for Not Feeling Guilty

  • Ask yourself if you have done something wrong. If not, then you need not feel guilty. That nagging voice in your head probably speaks very like your parent/child/boss/friend/neighbour. It is false. Ignore it. You will train yourself gradually to mute the volume.
  • Are you the type that can’t enjoy a success? You feel guilt instead? Think of success as a logical, intended culmination of years of planning, or months of study, or days of labour. It would be a huge surprise if anything other than success was the result. That is what you are working toward, isn’t it? Then, enjoy it!

You Are The Only Person Who Can Break The FOG Cycle

I’m very fortunate, I know, to have a husband who cares for my mental well-being. But, I was horrified, though not surprised, recently, to listen to a woman whose husband never asked her how she was feeling. The thing is, if you never say how you’re feeling, people can sometimes be forgiven for assuming that you feel OK. That leads to a situation where your feelings are unimportant.

Never underestimate the immense lack of interest of others, even those closest to you, in your contentment, mental wellbeing, physical health or fulfilment in life.

Fear – speak out, be heard in a positive way. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming aggressive towards those who scare you.

Obligation – take responsibilities seriously, but only those that you decide on.

Guilt – much of it is misplaced. Decide if the emotion is warranted, and act accordingly.

All of this takes a little practice, I know! But, it is achievable.

Image credit: mikecolvin82.

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How to Be Brave

Captain Frederick Marryat (July 10, 1792 August 9, 1848) was an English novelist, a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, and is noted today as an early pioneer of the sea story. He is best known for the autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy and his children ‘s novel The Children of the New Forest.

Why am I telling you this? Because it gives some context to one of the powerful quotes on courage and overcoming fear that I ‘ve ever read. These words come from Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America, and an incredibly brave man.

Having been a rather sickly and awkward boy, I was, as a young man, at first nervous and distrustful of my own prowess. I had to train myself painfully and laboriously not merely as regards my body but as regards my soul and spirit

When a boy I read a passage in one of Marryat ‘s books which always impressed me. In this passage, the captain of some small British man-of-war is explaining to the hero how to acquire the quality of fearlessness. He says at the outset almost every man is frightened when he goes into action, but that the course to follow is for the man to keep such a grip on himself that he can act just as if he were not frightened. After this has been kept up long enough, it changes from a pretence to a reality, and the man does in fact become fearless by sheer dint of practising fearlessness when he does not feel it. (I am using my own language, not Marryat ‘s.)

This is the theory upon which I went. There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean ‘ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid. Most men can have the same experience if they choose.

So, to put it in American English, you ‘fake it until you make it ‘!

In my opinion, it offers one of the chief ways to develop confidence in yourself as an individual. And it ‘s not just fluffy sentiment and wish-fulfilment. There is a sound psychological basis for it. Read what Williams James, American psychologist and philosopher, had to say about it.

Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can regulate the feeling, which is not.

Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can.

So, to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all of our will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.

These are some of my favourite quotes ever. What do you think of them?

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

How to Be Brave: The Return

I’ve had a few positive comments and dozens of views on a blog I wrote in July called How to Be Brave. The gist of it was that it’s possible to overcome the feeling of fear by first of all acting as if you were not afraid. If you can put on a good enough act, then the feelings will fall into place afterwards.

While teaching a course in non-verbal communication recently, a thought struck me. How do you act in a brave or fearless manner? Which specific types of body language can help us out here?


This is the most powerful piece of body language available to us! As that well-known psychologist Greta Garbo said, “Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening”. Smiling gives you great power over yourself and others.

Raise your Chin

If you are feeling down, raise your head and hold it in an upright position for a few moments. Notice how your mood will shift almost immediately.

Maintain Eye Contact

When you hold someone’s gaze it means that you are in control, assertive, even challenging. Narrow your eyes to be seen as strong and dominant. Move your gaze smoothly and deliberately. Of all bodily signals, the eyes reveal emotions the most accurately.

Be Still

Small, inconsequential gestures show discomfort, inner turmoil or frustration. Eliminate these micro-gestures by taking action to solve the problems, or learning to be still by shifting your energies to thought. Stillness and quiet signal to others that you are in control, and that it is up to them to make the move.

Stand straight

Posture reflects self-image, confidence, role and emotional state. As Ray Birdwhistell noted, “A person’s posture reflects their past. People who have experienced long-term depression may slouch and drag their bodies around, whereas people who have a positive outlook tend to hold themselves upright.”.

Walk Tall

However you walk, you are being true to your internal rhythms and feelings. By choosing to walk in a certain way you are presenting an image you want other to believe. Quicken your tempo to increase your energy. Or slow it down to show deliberation. Whatever you do, choose it.

Expand Out

Take up space and look as though you are conformable in it. Don’t shrivel up or cringe when others look at you. Hold your arms away from your body and your elbows slightly out from your sides. Plant your feet slightly apart. Be significant!

Pump it Up

The volume that is. If you talk quietly you will ignored, you will sound unsure or others will talk over you. Don’t be afraid to hear yourself speak. I don’t mean that you should scream or resemble a fog-horn. But try raising your voice a little and you will more easily get the attention and time of others.

Try them out. They actually work. I dare you! And, if you need help putting this all in practice, get in touch.

Photo by Nadim Merrikh on Unsplash

Leah Totten Won

I’m no Claude, but here are a few suggestions why I think Leah triumphed over Luisa.

Leah Totton was cast as the quiet, even cold, one during The Apprentice 2013. It’s true that we’re not known for our effective assertiveness skills in NI. But, cold!?

First, let me explain why Leah may have been artlessly pegged as the quiet, cold one.

Allen‘s Granny Used to say That Everybody Has to Be *Something*

In order for the media industry to invent headlines and concoct a story, everyone has to have a character, a physical flaw, a quirk (Alex’s quirky eyebrows, Jordan’s impressive quiff, Tim’s physical energy, Myles notable “abs”).

We don’t know these people, and so we latch on to something obvious about them in order to love, hate and gossip. It’s what makes normal entrepreneurs begin to screech at the screen… “No!”, “Agrgh!” and “Oh, wise the flip up!”. Ok, that’s only at my house…

In Quietness and Confidence Shall be your Strength

This is one of my all-time favourite ancient texts, written by an eighth century BC prophet. In defence of quietness:

  • Quietness does not mean silence. Leah Totten was not silent. She was articulate. And, choosing her words carefully, spoke when necessary, avoiding the temptation to splatter the atmosphere with clich√©s, business speak and wearying truisms.
  • Volume does not invoke wisdom. That much is clear in our workplaces, cafes, homes and neighbourhoods. And, those who used volume on the show to get their point across? Did it work? On the contrary, a loud voice used consistently is boorish, intimidating and stressful. Content often gets sidelined.
  • When a quiet person speaks, people listen. Leah was listened to because she made sense, she consistently referred the team back to the point of the task (usually, selling) at key stages.
  • Lest we forget, introversion is not a disease; it is a tendency or preference.

For Cold, Read Calm

Business shows on the telebox past and present have included candidates who were:

  • Loud and contentless
  • Confident to the point of pantomime
  • Argumentative like it was an Olympic sport

Leah’s peaceful demeanor, physical stillness, immaculate personal presentation contributed to Lord’s Sugar’s confidence in her.

Tranquil, Self-Assured and Stylish

Though apparently maligned on the show due to her medical career (why invite her onto the show??), my guess is that the following skills are crucial in a highly-charged environment of healthcare:

  • Whose office would you rather be in when bad news is delivered? One of tranquility, or one of noise?
  • Physical stillness is one of the assertiveness techniques we teach on seminars. Those who flail around are sometimes taken as nervous, threatening or bonkers (when combined with idiotic language and contentless monologues). Keeping physically calm exudes confidence and self-assuredness. It reassures the listener. (Incidentally, Karren Brady also employs this technique.)
  • Again, in business, we select clothes, style hair and adopt a personal presentation that enhances our message, rather than detracts from it. Have you read the dress what you want to become mantra? This underscored Leah’s determination to win. She already looked like a winner.

In my book (as Nick would enunciate), despite many candidates’ best attempts, it wasn’t bombast or slickness that won the day. It was a clear-thinking communicator, with little business experience, who listened to requirements of the task and interpreted them consistently to achieve excellent results.

A Woman on a Rampage

In the final, she was “a woman on a rampage” (Alex). Hardly quiet or cold!

In true Leah Totten style, and celebrated by those on the introversion spectrum everywhere, after the final she said, “I ‘m not really a big partier.”

Well done Dr Leah. 🙂

Proof For ‘Fake It Until You Make It’!

It’s the stuff of cheesy, pop-psychology legend. ‘Fake it until you make it’! Yeah, right! Excuse me if I refuse the snake oil and select a sick bag instead. Only one problem. It seems to be true.

First there was Aristotle:

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way. We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.”

Then the experiences of Teddy Roosevelt and the observations of William James. And finally, Robert Greene’s power law 34 :

“Be royal in your fashion: act like a king to be treated like one.”

I’ve recently read an excellent book by Richard Wiseman called 59 Seconds: Think a little, Change a lot. In it he gives many examples of such ‘proprioceptive psychology ‘. Not only certain thoughts and emotions cause regular behaviours, but the causation works the other way around too! He quotes dozens of academic studies that demonstrate, among other things, that:

  • the act of smiling makes you feel happier
  • arm crossing increases persistence and performance
  • lying down increases creativity
  • increased heart rate and eye contact lead to love

In each of these cases, we’re progammed to think that the internal feelings come first, and that the body language is an expression of what already exists. Not necessarily. You – or someone else – can make these feelings occur by practising the behaviour.

I’ve found another confirmation of this in an article Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect NeuroendocrineLevels and Risk Tolerance. The gist of it is that those who adopt typical power poses – demonstrating expansiveness and openness – experience heightened levels of testosterone and lowered levels of cortisol. The first increases competitiveness and openness to challenge, while the second deals with stress.

Let me put it plainly. Adopting certain non-verbal communication patterns doesn’t just change how you feel. Deeper than that, it alters the chemistry of your body and brain.

IMHO that’s the real power of body language – what it does to you! How you then go on to influence other people is a secondary product of this.

Fake it until you make it. Easy on the cheese… heavy on the chemicals!

Image credit: gnuckx.

Radical Listening Skills

I was momentarily speechless this week, as I listened to 14-17 year olds tell me how I could tell if they were listening to me. We then applied this to listening to others, specifically those who were telling you something very personal, such as their feelings and what they were thinking about themselves. Here are the phrases they called out, as we thought what might be important to think about when we were trying to demonstrate attentiveness.

Eye Contact

The old rule is that when you’re talking, you look at the person 60-70% of the time, but this increases to 70-80% of the time, when they are talking to you. Solidly maintained eye-contact is threatening, as in The Godfather. Absent eye-contact is disconcerting and irritating, as in People Who Love Schmoozing at Parties. You must consistently present an interested demeanor, otherwise someone will lose interest in you, or become anxious and/or aggressive.

Of course, you can use eye contact to your advantage, if you want to escape someone or discourage them from speaking. This works best with aggressive types, who will often become sullen, and eventually silent, following a period of decreasing eye-contact.

Body Language

Face the speaker. Make sure your feet, chest and head are pointing toward them. Lean forward into the conversation. If you are there in body, it conveys the notion that you are also there in mind.

Those who seem to lean toward the speaker, but face elsewhere, or vice-versa are most often to be found at parties, where someone of more interest has entered the room. For such people, it’s kinder to release them and find someone with more manners.


It’s one of the easiest things to do. It can make even the most socially awkward person seem more engaged with the speaker. It takes a minimal of effort. It encourages people to keep going.

It’s something to avoid if you’ve tired of listening, though. In my experience, it’s best avoided at networking meetings. Otherwise, you will become trapped with an entrepreneurial bore.


Nothing is more discouraging for a speaker than someone who does not respond. This is something I encounter occasionally when I’m speaking to a larger group. It takes time to establish rapport. And, if you’re in the process of revealing something very personal, then a lack of response will soon cause your openness to dissipate.

Responding to a speaker is the greatest way of eliciting more information. It’s best done via open-ended questions. Tell me more… So, how did that feel? Have you any other thoughts about that?

Alternativelt, if you fail to respond, it sends a clear signal to the speaker of your lack of interest.

Asking Questions

If you aren’t listening and hearing what is being said, then you will be entirely unable to formulate intelligent and probing questions. If the question you ask is vague, it gives the speaker the impression you were only listening at the start or at the end, as they drew their speaking to a close. Asking precise questions shows engagement and interest in the person and their topic.

You could of course avoid asking questions at all, to not-so-subtly indicate you are not interested in hearing about it any further. People who are uncomfortable with a certain topic often do this unconsciously, giving the wrong impression, but nevertheless ending any further discourse.


The best encouragement, which will elicit an aura of openness and honesty, is a genuine and recurrent smile. It promotes feelings of empathy, friendliness and trustworthiness. What better foundations for a good, honest conversation?

What are your thoughts? Do you have any tips for adding to our list of Listening Skills? Feel free to add them in a comment below.

Image credit: el Buho n ∫30.

The Body Language of Power

There was a spate of tabloid stories this week about body language and power, two of my favourite topics. Apparently a study had shown that employers save their best grins for those lower in the pecking order. Like most good science, this seems counter-intuitive. We would guess that a superior would frown to mere minions but save their special smiles for equals. But the reasoning is that powerful people see their peers as a threat and don’t want to seem over-familiar. They can be a friendly as they like to inferiors; they don’t matter enough to warrant a serious demeanor.

I love this intersection between psychology and business. As a trainer, its where I live. So I thought I would dig a little deeper and try to find the original article. The source was a paper at the Society for Neuroscience 2012 given by Evan Carr. The press release put it like this. “Social status and self-perceptions of power affect facial mimicry, such that powerful individuals suppress their smile mimicry towards other high-status people, while powerless individuals mimic everyone ‘s smile.”

In the larger PDF press release, the point is made that whether or not a person mimics the facial expressions of another such as returning a smile appears to depend, in part, on how powerful the mimic feels, and the status of the person they are ‘mirroring’. Carr states that,

Mimicry has been shown to help build relationships, and both power and status seem to affect how we unconsciously employ this strategy. These findings may speak to how social hierarchies often form ‘under the radar ‘ quickly, efficiently, and without awareness.

My favourite piece of research on the power of mirroring was in a paper called Mimicry for money: Behavioral consequences of imitation. Waitresses in a restaurant found that they received up to 70% larger tips if they repeated the customers’ order back at them word-for-word than if they said something like “okay” or “coming right up”. Other research by some of the same researchers can be found in:

My favourite experiment on smiling? Two groups were given the same cartoons to read. One group had to look while holding a pencil in their teeth. The other group held a pencil by their lips.

Guess which group found the cartoons funniest?

(Hint: If you can’t figure it out, observe the shape of your mouth in each pencil position.)

Image credit: macrj.

Body Language Arrives Northern Ireland


It’s true, we’re not the most physically expressive bunch of people on the planet. But there was an interesting case study in body language last year thanks to two of our dourest political operatives. And to make it all the more juicy, it was caught on camera for all to see. I’m talking about the ‘revealing’ body language of Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson during a recent joint interview. Continue reading “Body Language Arrives Northern Ireland”