Liquid error (layout/theme.shogun.landing line 12): Could not find asset snippets/elevar-head.liquid 14 Body Language Tools that Convince Anyone You’re Confident – HarperCollins Leadership Essentials

14 Body Language Tools that Convince
Anyone You’re Confident

The key to success in situations where you are trying to convince or persuade is not the sentence, but the number of contact-supporting gestures you use when speaking it. The purpose of this resource is to show you how you can use positive body language to help you convince people and how you can recognize the same signals in others.



  • How to recognize when your conversation partner is
  • The body movements that stimulate trust and

Leaning the Upper Body Forward

The position of the upper body gives you basic information about the other person’s attitude toward you.

  • If you want someone to listen to you carefully, it is important
    to get her to orientate her body toward you rather than away
    from you, since this means interest.
  • If the upper body is leaning back or turned away, particularly if the arms are crossed, there is a good chance that the person wants to distance himself from the subject under discussion.

Averting the upper body in this
way is usually a sign that someone is not listening closely to what you are saying. Perhaps the subject is not important or interesting enough for him to lean forward in your direction.

Opening the Palms of the Hand

Open palms are a sign of peaceful intentions. It shows that you have nothing to hide, you’re unarmed, and you’re mentally open to what the other person is saying. This is a sign of...


  • Openness: It's a signal to the other person that his words are being experienced as respectful, positive, and valuable.
  • Honesty: The more frequently a person stretches out his hands in front of him, the greater the honesty he wishes to communicate.
  • Trust: Liars are more inclined to keep their hands concealed.


This gesture can be strengthened by spreading the fingers or bending them slightly upward, so that the hand forms a kind of cup.

Showing Your Wrists

Women who feel attracted to a man will often hold their glass in a way that exposes their wrists. This can be interpreted as a sign of openness. In other situations, it means that someone wants to emphasize their sincerity and benign intentions.

Hand Movements Near the Mouth

When someone sitting down holds his hands near his mouth and makes gestures that emphasize or support his words, this helps to ensure a good contact with his conversation partner. Holding the hands in this way emphasizes that the speaker wants to be properly understood, as though he wants to use his hands to give his words more power.

Open Hands on the Table

If during a negotiation someone pushes her glass or cup to one side—the same side as the hand she was drinking with—this is a sign of openness and acceptance. In this way, her arm movement shows that she wishes to place no barriers between herself and her conversation partner, in contrast to the impression that would be given by moving the cup or glass to the opposite side.

Talking with Your Hands

If you work in the training or sales sectors, talking with your hands can help your listeners to visualize what you are saying. This stimulates the right side of their brains, which processes visualizations, emotions, and intuition. In this way, you communicate with both the rational left half of the brain and with the more emotional right half, which not only makes it easier for listeners to remember new content, but also makes that content seem more convincing.

Handshakes: Vertical vs. Both Hands

In Roman times, it was the custom when shaking hands to grab hold of the other person’s wrist. This was a quick way to check that he was not hiding a dagger in his sleeve. Nowadays, a handshake shows that we are willing to make someone’s acquaintance. It is an important element in the physical assessment of the other person’s energy and vitality. Even in these days of teleconferencing, businesspeople are still prepared to pay the price of an airline ticket so that they can meet future partners face to face and can feel their handshakes. In the Middle East, a written contract is not binding until the two parties have shaken hands.

The Vertical Handshake

There are two aspects essential to establish a good and equal understanding during the handshake.


  1. Both hands should be in a vertical position, so that neither of the parties is superior or inferior to the other.
  2. The level of pressure applied during the handshake must be the same on both sides. If one person squeezes with 70 percent force, while the other only squeezes with 50 percent, the first person should reduce his pressure by 20 percent. If the other person squeezes with 90 percent force, the first person should increase their pressure by 20 percent until it also comes up to the same level as their partner.


The person who takes the initiative to strengthen or weaken the handshake will depend on the context, the situation, and their awareness of the rules of body language. If you meet a group of ten different people, it is possible that you may also need to change the verticality and the pressure of your handshake ten times, so that you can make everyone’s acquaintance on the same footing.

The Handshake with Both Hands

A handshake with both hands—the so-called glove handshake—can be an expression of warmth, trust, and kindness toward the person whose hand you are shaking.

First, it is the initial positioning of the left hand that makes clear to the other person that you intend to give her a handshake with both hands.


  • Movement: demonstrates a desire for a sincere relationship, almost as if you wish to embrace the other person.
  • Hand Dominance: the left hand serves as the indicator of closeness.
  • Height: The higher you place your left hand on the other person’s right arm, the clearer you make your desire to get closer in your relationship. It is
    an expression of your good intentions.
  • Placement: Taking hold of the elbow with your left hand demonstrates more affection than taking hold of the wrist.

Second, as the initiating person you need to be aware of how far your left hand intrudes into the other person’s personal space.


  • Wrist: Taking hold of the wrist or the upper arm will only support the contact if a good bond already exists between you.
  • Left hand: Placing the left hand on the upper arm illustrates a very close level of attachment and is almost equivalent to an embrace.

If this warmth of feeling is not mutual or if there is no good reason for the initiator to demonstrate such warmth, the glove handshake may arouse suspicion or even distrust in the other person. It is therefore crucial with this type of handshake to be guided by authentic motives and not simply be a desire to make a good impression.

Stretching Out Your Legs

If your conversation partner stretches out their legs in front of you in a relaxed manner, this generally means that they find your discussion interesting. Likewise, if during a discussion one of the conversation partners suddenly uncrosses his legs and stretches them out, this too is a signal of interest and acceptance. If the other conversation partner wishes to express similar interest, she can reciprocate with the same leg movement.

Tilting Your Head to One Side

Tilting the head to expose the side of the neck is a signal of a willingness to adopt a vulnerable position. Whenever we want to display trust, commitment, approval, or interest, we bare our neck to others. It is almost as if we signal our surrender to the other person’s will. In this way, we show that we are ready to listen, without contradiction. When someone listens to you with a tilted head, this is meant as an expression of confidence and an acceptance of what you are saying. If you are involved in negotiations or are engaged in a debate and want to be interrupted less frequently by your opponent, try tilting your head slightly to the right. You can identify a negative attitude in your rival by one or more of the following nonverbal signs:


  • hands in pockets
  • folded arms
  • a doubtful stroking of the chin
  • hands behind the back
  • tense shoulders
  • a dirty look
  • clasped hands, or
  • the body turned away from you


When you smile at someone, the recipient will often smile back, which creates a positive feeling between you. Smiles often serve to break the ice when we first meet someone new. Research has shown that if you smile and laugh regularly (so that it becomes second nature to you), your relations with other people will run more smoothly, last longer, and yield more positive results.

It is also a good idea to smile occasionally during conversations and discussions to show that you understand the other person. Some people have a habit of smiling too much, often to hide shyness. This reduces their self-confidence, which sometimes means that they are taken less seriously in a business context.

Eye Contact

In the West, we speak of eye contact as when someone looks her conversation partner in the eye at least 70 percent of the time. Seventy percent is a good guideline—any more can be seen as staring and come across as aggressive or just plain weird. In Asian cultures, eye contact occurs less frequently and for shorter durations than in the West. While in the West a reasonable amount of eye contact is generally viewed positively, in Asia it can be seen as disrespectful. Employees will often avoid making
eye contact with their superiors, for example, not out of shyness or embarrassment, but out of respect.

Nodding Your Head

Giving a nod with your head is a signal of acceptance, a sign that you are listening. If you want someone to say something more, it is a good idea to nod your head and adopt an open body stance. This is one of the many gestures confirmed by Buli in 1983 as being conducive to creating a good and positive understanding in the course of a conversation.

Mirroring Body Language

The mirroring of body language makes the other person feel accepted, which is a good first step toward mutual understanding. This mirroring occurs in a natural way between friends, loved ones, and people of the same status. We are less keen to mirror people we don’t know or like, such as the people we meet in an elevator or standing in a line.

Even so, mirroring body language is one of the most effective methods for immediately making good contact with others. If you meet someone important for the first time, try to copy their body position, movements, facial expressions, and the timbre of their voice. Make sure you don’t mimic the other person too closely, but perform a number of elements that are easy to simulate. After a short time, your conversation partner will subconsciously experience that they feel comfortable with you. People will remember you as someone who it is good to talk with. This happens because they see their own reflection mirrored in you.

Adapted with permission from Without Saying a Word: Master the Science of Body Language and Maximize Your Success by Kasia Wezowski and Patryk Wezowski, copyright Kasia Wezowski and Patryk Wezowski.

Become an authentic and confident communicator.

Without Saying a Word explains how even the subtlest motions have meaning. Distilling decades of research, the book deciphers these unspoken signals.

One wrong move can undercut your message. Believe it or not, our bodies speak louder than our words. Postures, gestures, and expressions convey reams of information—and often not what you’d expect. A smile, for example, is usually considered welcoming. But crook one corner of your mouth higher and you project superiority, subconsciously chasing other people away. Without Saying a Word explains how even the subtlest motions have meaning. Distilling decades of research, the book deciphers these unspoken signals: from facial expressions and fleeting micro expressions to positive and negative body language. Discover which postures and gestures indicate confidence and build rapport—and which reveal disinterest, arrogance, or even aggression. Learn to end off-putting habits, accentuate good ones, and become an authentic and effective communicator. Exhibiting body language that is open, honest, and self-assured increases your social influence and enhances your skill as a negotiator . . . while the ability to read the emotions and intentions of others is equally indispensable. Whether you’re making a presentation, pitching a project, or closing a deal, the right body language can be your best ally.

Presented by