How to Persuade More Effectively (Without Changing a Word) – 9 Nonverbal Strategies That Work

You may not know this – but your nonverbal communication plays a big role in how persuasive you are.

That’s right.

Your body gestures, movements, tone of voice, touch, distance from the person, eye contact, and physical appearance can make you more or less persuasive.

Here are 9 nonverbal ways to dramatically increase your persuasive power:

1. Touching
There have been countless studies on the power of touch – and its effectiveness on persuasion. Jacob Hornick (1992) studied waiters and waitresses who touched and didn’t touch diners during their meals. Touching not only increased tips significantly, it also caused customers to evaluate the restaurant more favorably. Interestingly, attractive waitresses who touched female customers received the highest tips of all. Other studies have shown that customers in bars drank significantly more alcohol when touched by cocktail waitresses (Kaufman and Mahoney, 1999). Burgoon, Walther, and Baesler (1992) found that touch carries favorable interpretations of immediacy, affection, similarity, and relaxation.

2. Smiling
There have been dozens of studies showing the persuasive power of smiling; for example: waitresses earn more tips (Gueguen & Fischer-Lokou, 2004), job interviewers create positive impressions (Washburn & Hakel, 1973) and more likely to get the job (Forbes & Jackson, 1980), and even students accused of cheating are treated with greater leniency when smiling (LaFrance & Hecht, 1995). Smiling doesn’t always work in every situation, but it can definitely help you seem more positive and upbeat which often aids in persuasiveness.

3. Mirroring
A lot of people in sales like to use “mirroring” to improve their persuasiveness. The assumption behind “mirroring” is that people like others who are just like them – so if I smile, the sales person should smile; if I laugh, the sales person should laugh, etc.

4. Lean Forward
People who learn forward tend to be more persuasive than those who don’t – and people who use open body positions (e.g. arms and legs positioned away from body) rather than in closed body positions are also more persuasive (McGinley, LeFevre, & McGinley, 1975).

5. Eye Contact
As you know, eye contact can help you reveal your interest in something or somebody. Well, it is also a good way to make yourself more persuasive. In a university research study, they found that beggars who were able to establish eye contact with strangers (and made legitimate requests) were more likely to get money from that person (Robinson, Seiter, & Acharya, 1992). Interestingly, lack of eye contact has also shown to be successful when making illegitimate requests since it makes the person seem more humble or embarrassed (Kleinke, 1980).

6. Distance
Your geographical location to someone can increase your persuasive power. In a study by Baron and Bell (1976), diners in a cafeteria were approached by an experimenter and asked to volunteer for a survey for a period of 30 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes. The experimenter made requests of diners either 12 to 18 inches away or 3 to 4 feet away. Results showed that diners volunteered for longer surveys when approached by closer distances.

7. Dress for Success
Research shows that what we wear can greatly impact our credibility and status (Burgoon, Buller & Woodall, 1966). This includes our grooming, hair length, cosmetics, etc (Atkins & Kent 1988).

8. Talk Faster
Miller, Maruyama, Beaber, and Valone (1976) found that speeches delivered at fast speeds were more persuasive than those at slow or moderate speeds (perhaps because persuaders who speak faster appear more competent and knowledgeable). Faster speeches also have less scrutiny (Smith and Shaffer, 1995).

9. Use Hand Movements
Using hand movements encourages attention and retention in your persuasion attempt. Woodall and Folger (1981) found that people recalled 34% of a verbal message when accompanied by hand gestures, compared to only 11%. And Saigh (1981) found that the more teachers gesture, the more their students learn.

Hopefully, some of these strategies work for you the next time you ask for a paper extension from your professor.


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