Whether it’s a client, colleague, or manager, getting people to like you is a large but rarely discussed part of success in the professional world.
The simple fact is that people who are well liked are also well supported. Their emails are answered more frequently, their comments better received in meetings, and they’re reviewed more positively in performance reviews.
Here are 7 body language techniques to use when you want to influence someone positively:
1. Mirror their movements
The neuroscience is clear on this: people feel more comfortable with you when you mirror their movements. It’s known as limbic synchrony, and yes, it really works.
Don’t make it obvious, but mimic the movements of the person you’re with. They’re taking a sip of their drink? Sip yours, too. If they’ve got an open stance with their arms on their hips, stand the same way. Don’t go overboard, but this is a simple and powerful way to get into rapport.
2. Practice a firm but flexible handshake
First impressions are critical, and a “dead fish” handshake will instantly make people dislike you. Especially if you’re in sales or regularly meet new people for your job, practice a firm but flexible handshake. (Yes, actually practice it with a few different people. It’s worth it.)
3. Make eye contact when you shake hands
Humans are hard-wired to form positive attachments to those with whom they share eye contact. In fact, some scientists are experimenting with sustained eye-gazing as a way to treat attachment disorders.
Looking away, especially when meeting someone for the first time, is particularly damaging. It’s often interpreted as either a lack of respect, or an indication that you have something to hide. Eye contact, on the other hand, communicates that you are trustworthy and interested in that person.
4. Take deep breaths
Human beings attune themselves to the nervous systems of those around them. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed the system will be of the person you’re with, and the more they’ll like you.
One proven way to relax your system quickly is to take a deep breath, breathing out for longer than you breathe in. For example, breathe in for four seconds and out for eight. This relaxes your physiology, which then relaxes whoever you’re with.
5. Sit up straight
Body language-wise, slouching is a clear indicator of lack of confidence. Especially in meetings, you want to sit up straight, but in a relaxed fashion.
The hack here is to keep your core engaged but your shoulders relaxed. When your abs are working, you can’t help but sit up straight; then just relax your shoulders.
6. Stand up straight
Same idea: your stance says a lot about you, and you don’t want it to say, “I’m unsure of myself.” In general, having your feet close together indicates insecurity, while a wider stance connotes confidence.
The rule of thumb is to keep your feet about hip-width apart.
7. When walking into a room, wave to someone and smile
Because humans are social animals, our brains are set up to like people who already know people in the “tribe.” On an unconscious level, people will like you more when you demonstrate that you’re already familiar with others.
You don’t even necessarily have to know someone. If you walk into a cold networking event, for example, just wave to the corner of the room and mouth something like, “I’ll be right there.” Then go get a drink or your badge. No one will remember you waving, but they’ll associate you as someone who knows people.
Ultimately, no one likes someone who wants to be liked solely for the sake of being liked. To be truly liked, you’ve got to back up your likability with reliability. In other words, you must inspire trust in addition to likability.
Or, as Zig Zigler puts it, “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”