The trust project week: Eye contact tests integrity

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Close eye contact will add to the conflict if one already is there. "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia 6 by David Shankbone" by David Shankbone - David Shankbone. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_at_Columbia_6_by_David_Shankbone.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_at_Columbia_6_by_David_Shankbone.jpg
Close eye contact will add to the conflict if one already is there. "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia 6 by David Shankbone" by David Shankbone - David Shankbone. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_at_Columbia_6_by_David_Shankbone.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_at_Columbia_6_by_David_Shankbone.jpg
Close eye contact will add to the conflict if one already is there. “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia 6 by David Shankbone” by David Shankbone – David Shankbone. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution,

Successful marketing/branding improves trust, making it easier for potential clients to both discover and elect to do business with you. This week, I’m exploring some aspects of successful trust-building strategies, gleaned from a Quora.com thread started with this question: “What is the quickest way to get people to trust you?”

Memphis, TN- based Roy Bauman Jr., who observes he “has knocked on more than 10,000 doors” writes:

If you are fair with other people and always looking for ways to help them, you will have no problem getting people to trust you.  Don’t associate with liars, thieves, or people who have qualities you don’t want, or trust.  I believe this bleeds through and most people can read it.  Some things that are important when gaining trust quickly are:  ​

  • Keep good eye contact at appropriate times. When I worked for a large, successful corporation, I asked the man who hired me (a 30 (year) veteran in hiring) what was the most important quality he looked for in new hires.  He told me that they could hold good eye contact.  Usually people who can do this have nothing to hide.
  • Be selectively vulnerable.  It’s not important to do constantly, but it shows you are human, a real Trustperson just like they are and is an indirect form of common ground, creating rapport.
  • Work very HARD.  Most people who find out through your actions that you are a very hard worker, will trust you and even refer or recommend you to others in a business environment.  People who go out and make a living through hard work are not generally seen as trying to “get over” on others.  They are willing to put in the necessary effort to earn what they receive.  Still work smart, but work your ass off.
  • Be unselfish and thoughtful of others’ position in your actions.
  • Don’t be deceitful.  Basically, be the kind of person others should trust.
  • Expect and have faith that they will trust you.
  • Be flexible, patient,  and don’t pressure them.  People immediately raise their guard when being pressured.  If you release your concern about the outcome, ironically you are more likely to get what you’d rather have.

The message here: Be good — and remember the importance of good eye contact.

Now, to clarify, the two elements need to go together (unless you are operating a con). Researchers have discovered that if you are in an adversarial or non-friendly environment, close eye contact can actually make things worse.  Forbes.com reported:

Researchers from Harvard, the University of British Columbia and the University of Freiberg used newly developed eye-tracking technology to test the claim during two experiments.  In the first, they had study participants watch a speaker on video while tracking their eye movements, and then asked how persuaded they were by the speaker. Researchers found that the more time participants spent looking into the speaker’s eyes, the less persuaded they were by the speaker’s argument. The only time looking into the speaker’s eyes correlated with being influenced was when the participants already agreed with the speaker’s opinions.

So the first takeaway is: when a speaker gives an opinion contrary to the audiences’, looking into her or his eyes has the exact opposite of the intended effect.

In a second experiment, some participants were told to look into the speaker’s eyes and others were told to watch the speaker’s mouth. Once again, participants who looked into the speaker’s eyes were less receptive to his opposing arguments, and also said they were less inclined to interact with advocates of the speaker’s argument.

Which leaves us with another takeaway contrary to the popular belief: if your audience is already skeptical of your arguments, looking into your eyes will not only reinforce their skepticism, but also make them less likely to interact with others expressing your views.

It seems when and how you apply eye contact determines your success.  Of course, you aren’t likely to succeed in selling or marketing anything to someone who has decided you are wrong in the first place. That is why Bauman’s other points are so important. Effective eye contact will validate your goodness, but, if you are in a conflict-situation, will simply make things worse.

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