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4 Ways to Earn the Confidence and Respect of Strangers

4 Ways to Earn the Confidence and Respect of Strangers

If you’re trying to build a successful career, you won’t get very far without specific industry-related skill sets. You’ll need to execute the tasks required by the job, and if you’re like most of us, you’ll gain the basics during your years in college, formal training programs, or informal training and years of accumulating experience.

But you’ll also need to get along with others. And as most employers and HR researchers are beginning to learn, this second skill set is the rarer and more valuable of the two. It’s also typically more difficult to acquire. Here are a few simple rules and guidelines that can help you build the most important skill you’ll need during your working life: the ability to earn the trust and respect of people you’ve never met.

1. Solve your own problems first.

When we meet a new person, we rarely trust that person to handle difficult challenges or perform at an exceptional level if they seem to struggle with the ordinary challenges of day-to-day life. A person who seems (or is) distracted, sick, exhausted, angry, confused, defeated, or emotionally overwrought tends to raise our blood pressure and general sense of anxiety instead of lowering it. It doesn’t seem fair—and it isn’t fair—that strangers should judge us so harshly simply because we’re struggling with problems beyond their knowledge. But so it goes. When you’re trying to inspire trust, make it clear that your own problems and your own personal challenges play no role in this equation.

2. Put your ego aside.

It sounds ironic in a discussion of how to behave and interact with others, but nevertheless: this isn’t about you. In an effective professional interaction, nothing is about you. If you’re consumed by fears and desires related to your own persona and your own agenda, you’re starting off on the wrong foot. Place the other person at the center of your attention and focus the conversation (and your goals) around that person and his or her persona, agenda, desires and fears. The big picture almost always matters more than your own role in it. Don’t start all your sentences with “I”, and don’t worry about how you’re coming off. As backward as it sounds, this is the best way to come off well.

3. Use your body language.

Keep your eyes and facial features soft when you’re trying to gain trust and inspire confidence. Relax the area around the eyes and mouth. Smile, but only if it feels natural to do so. Keep the chin tipped slightly downward, toward the chest. When you speak or gesture, relax your hands and keep the palms upward- facing. Tilt and angle your body slightly so you aren’t facing the person in a squared-off way. Don’t interrupt—No matter what the person says, let them speak until they’re finished.

4. Show interest in forming a connection.

Demonstrate that your interest goes beyond solving the matter at hand; show that you’d also like to understand the other person and make them feel at ease. At the same time, be careful not to apply pressure or make demands (spoken or unspoken). When each interaction begins, let the person know exactly when it will end. For example, use phrases like: “I only have a few minutes to talk,” “This meeting will need to end by 4:30”, and “I can’t stay for long.” These phrases have a magical tendency to help people relax and share their true feelings.

For more on how to build trust and help those around you feel calm and in control, explore the career- building tools and tips on MyPerfectResume.