I’ve been called for jury duty three times. The first time I received a notice, I stomped around thinking I was way too important to give up an entire day to sit at the courthouse without my laptop. Then it dawned on me that it was a privilege. Once I stopped resisting, I realized it was a chance to unplug and observe the human dance of jury selection. Sitting in the pool of potential jurors I watched attorneys for both sides ask questions in order to select a jury that was unbiased to the particulars of the case. The most interesting part was watching the potential jurors try to sound biased so they could be dismissed and get back to their emails, lunch meetings, and deadlines! It was obvious. They were in their heads, formulating their answers. They lacked real presence. They talked too much, repeated themselves and shuffled their feet. Human beings are fairly good at spotting a lack of presence and sincerity in someone. There are nanoseconds in which their behavior doesn’t sync up with their words, and the mismatch registers with us. We don’t trust them.
Distraction Looks Like Insincerity
How does my experience with jury duty translate to your trustworthiness when you give a presentation, run a meeting or have a high-stakes conversation? Today we’re so distracted with getting the words right, we stay in our head and talk to our slides. We’re literally absent from the message. We look like people trying to get out of jury duty. In our worst presentations we talk about being “inclusive” with our arms folded. We say we’re “excited” with a pan face. We say we put “people first” while we check our notes to make sure we get the company core values right. When someone with a different point of view asks a question, we clip the end of their question because we have memorized the perfect answer or key message. UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian studied the way people “read” your non-verbal communication back in the 1970s. His ground-breakbreaking study found that 93% of your sincerity and genuine presence show up in the way you look, move and sound–not what you say. Your behavior and message need to sync up if you want people to trust you.
According to Mehrabian, the three elements account differently for our liking for the person who puts forward a message concerning their feelings: words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking. Mehrabian's Communication Theory
Ten Tips to Showing up in Your Message and Earning Trust
- Be intentional about your purpose. Before you communicate, ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?” “What value can I offer them?”
- Never memorize complete sentences as though people actually talk that way. Say things in your own words. Use short, sturdy sentences.
- Whenever you can, ditch the slides and have a conversation. Look people in the eye and make a human connection.
- Don’t dominate the conversation or repeat yourself. People can experience these things as insincere.
- Grow your self-awareness of your own body language. If you stay in the moment you can counteract restless habits and fidgeting.
- Lighten up, be spontaneous and tell a brief story. We trust regular people who can kick back a little.
- Recognize and appreciate the people in the room. It’s not about you.
- People like you tend to trust you. If you say you’re inclusive, don’t leave out people who aren’t like you. Address their interests with relaxed body language. Keep an open mind.
- Learn to be a facilitator of dialogue. Ask intelligent questions of your audience and invite their feedback.
- Be attentive and listen more than you talk.