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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