What’s the most effective body language when trying to influence someone?
Noah Goldstein, co-author of Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, says the research shows it depends on your goal:
- If your strategy is aimed primarily at increasing the perceived attractiveness of your request or offer, an eager nonverbal style is more likely to be effective.
- if your strategy is focused specifically on reducing the other person’s resistance to your proposal, a vigilant nonverbal style is more likely to be effective.
And what are those styles, exactly?
Cesario & Higgins characterize an eager nonverbal style as “approach-oriented”:
- very animated, broad opening movements
- hand movements openly projected outward
- forward-leaning body positions
- fast body movements
- a fast speech rate
In contrast, they characterize a vigilant nonverbal style as “avoidance-oriented”:
- more precise gestures
- backward-leaning positions
- slower body movements
- slower speech
What’s the takeaway here?
If you want to increase the attractiveness of an offer, think upbeat and sales-y.
If you want to reduce resistance, think calm and authoritative.
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