Marketing | 10 min read

Oct 11, 2018

Some Psychological Human Shortcuts to Build Trust

Trust is essential to your personal, professional and business success. How you build trust determines how influential you will be. If people don’t trust you, then they won’t listen to you. But if they do, they will be open to your ideas.

Building trust has become an essential skill in the world today. There are so many uncertainties that make it harder to determine who to trust. So if you want to engender trust in people, you need to understand them. How do they decide that they trust a particular person and not the other? It all comes down to psychology.

People use your verbal and nonverbal cues to determine if you are trustworthy.  They analyze your words, how you say it and your accompanying actions to figure out if you have good intentions and if you can carry them out. 

Therefore, your ability to communicate warmth and competence is the key to building trust.  Luckily, there are many ways to convey this to others and build trust with them.

Reflect Warmth on First Impression

Do you greet people like you're cold calling them?

Then, obviously, people are not going to trust you! The first step to generating trust is to greet someone warmly with a broad smile.

Smiling doesn't only make the other person feel relaxed or welcomed. It also affects your psychology and mood in a positive way. You create a better environment for the interaction, paving the way for generating trust.

Keep eye contact

When speaking to someone, it is important that you maintain eye-contact. This shows them that you are paying attention and you take the conversation seriously. It also makes your listener feel heard and that you like them.

Research shows that the more people look at each other when speaking, the more they like each other. So if you look away too soon or keep averting your eyes, you will come off as untrustworthy.

According to Michael Argyle, a social psychologist, people maintain eye-contact 40-60% of the time when conversing. We become seemingly attentive if we maintain eye contact for 80% of the time.

So if you want to establish rapport and build trust with someone, you need to look them in the eye about 70-80% of the time when talking to them. Be careful not to blink too much, as excessive blinking indicates stress and nervousness, and creates suspicion. On average, adults blink 15-20 times per minute, but this increases when they are under pressure or stressed.

Mirror body language

You can create rapport and build trust with people if you mirror their body language. It is common to see people subtly matching their non-verbal behaviors especially when the conversation is going well. This could mean assuming similar gestures, posture, facial expressions or stance.

So if you are conversing with someone and they lean forward, you can lean in. If they are gesturing with their hands, you can try as well. This creates a sense of understanding and communicates feelings of empathy and trust. However, be careful not to overdo it as this can make it seem like you are mocking them or don’t take the conversation seriously.

The sound of your voice matters

What you say matters but how you say it matters twice as much. When speaking, you are conveying vocal non-verbal clues that influence your listener’s perception. It is common to lower the pitch of your voice when you want to project authority, but people can always tell.

If you want to come across as credible and authentic, you can vary your voice by speaking in loud to soft tones depending on your message. But make sure that you stay within your normal pitch.

You should also slow down when speaking to allow the conversation to flow freely, and make your listener comfortable. Speaking faster makes the listener feel pressured which can create anxiety. You can also use words that sound similar to your listener’s name. People love to hear their name and like things that are similar to their name.

Listen Carefully

We often forget the most important part of forming a connection with someone else. We just forget to listen!

You may be surprised to know, but most of us tend to drift off during conversations. We check our phones, look away at the wall, glance at the watch - do anything and everything other than listening to the other person.

It's really crucial that you listen intently to generate trust. Keeping eye contact, mirroring body language, and other tricks won't work if you forget to listen. So make the other person feel you are listening with full concentration.

While conversing, also remember to let the other person complete his or her sentences. Don't interrupt in the middle and wait for a second or two before replying. This gives the time for your company to finish what he wanted to say. It also shows you are listening carefully and are the perfect candidate to open up to.

Be a Little Silly

This trick we are going to talk about is used extensively by psychiatrists to get the trust of their patients. You can even try the trick in real life to make friends, connect with a client, or just helping someone open up.

The trick is really simple. All you got to do is to show a little vulnerability, something that shows you are a fallible human being.

Psychiatrists sometimes spill their tea, tell bad jokes, or drop their pens to make themselves appear as humans. The other person on the side can then relax a bit, and drop his or her defenses a bit.

However, there is a condition for this trick to work. Before you establish your vulnerability, you have to prove your credibility.

In the case of doctors, his degree or diplomas will do the trick. In the case of businesses, your sales volume, customer reviews, or press coverage can establish credibility.

Also, be mindful of the silliness you decide to show. Don't act silly in a way that may hamper your credibility.

For instance, if a doctor puts the stethoscope on your forehead instead of your chest, you will obviously take him as a quack! So be careful even while being silly!

Ask Open Ended Questions

Asking open ended questions can give the opportunity to someone to open up. They can speak their mind and what they feel about things. It also shows you are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.

Asking open ended questions lays the ground for building trust. Don't ask questions that can be answered with  a simple "yes" or "no." Ask questions that encourage the other person to open up and speak what's in his or her heart.

Let's say you are talking about an unfortunate event with a person. Instead of asking, "does it make you feel sad," you can ask - "How do you feel about the situation," or "what problems are you facing in the face of the situation."

The open-ended questions give the chance to let out everything someone has been holding in. As a result, that person is highly likely to put his or her trust in you.

Be Open About Your Intentions

This cannot be stressed enough! You can't make the other person trust you if you aren't open about your intentions.

Imagine you just met someone. He keeps talking to you about this and that for one hour. Then you find out he's just trying to make you join his MLM scheme! Obviously, you will lose any trust you hade for the person!

It's really important to be open about your objectives and motives. If you want to sell something, tell the other person in the beginning. If you are looking for a date, make your intentions clear.

Be Honest

Last but not least, always be honest, as much as you can. We are sure you aren't going to trust a dishonest person, so don't expect others to do so!

Make a point to be honest and make your motives clear. Tell the truth and cut down the lies and put-ons as much as you can. We intuitively know when someone is being honest, and place our trust on them.

Follow the same approach to gain the trust of others.

Talk to the other person as you'd do with a friend or acquaintance. Be involved, listen intently, and adopt the right non-verbal cues to create more trust.


Greg Hickman