How Nonverbal Influence Works

There is a study that indicates how (as infants) we already have the natural ability to nonverbally influence others. Adults over think the communication process and this natural ability goes dormant.

However, people still randomly use and unconsciously respond to nonverbal signals. This nonverbal process is created by a neural system of brain cells called mirror neurons. A person’s mirror neurons react both when some particular action (like a gesture) is performed or when the person is being observed. 

Mirror neurons are how we automatically sense the outside world around us and continuously establish rapport with others. It helps us automatically sense if a situation is hospitable or a threat. 

All of us have had many mirror neurons experiences. For example, when you smile at someone in a public place and they smile back. Similarly, remember a time when you felt like you were being watched, then as you turned around you saw someone looking at you. 

Although many adults— while maturing— have unconsciously stopped using this natural ability… it can be rewired. Much like riding a bicycle. 

Perfecting the art of nonverbal influence isn’t difficult, but like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get. 

Many of our coaching clients have discovered when you ethically use nonverbal influence— being authentic, understanding and respectful— then people will often sense they can trust you. 

Yet, the opposite is also true. If you try to be sneaky, lack integrity or are just being untruthful, others will unconsciously perceive that as well.

Furthermore, as people explore the deeper levels of nonverbal connection they also release some very pleasant neurochemicals. This euphoric (flow) state of mind helps you be calm, perceptive and much more receptive to the feelings of others.

This reminds me of a time when I was up in Montreal, Canada presenting a workshop. After the workshop a friend named Jacques (not his real name) had booked some coaching time… He wanted to improve his dating skills with women.

This perplexed me because Jacques is a young, handsome, well mannered, educated and charming guy. Anyway, I suggested we go downtown so he could show me where he needed help.

Soon it became obvious, Jacques was stuck in a state overthinking the dating process. He was using memorized pickup lines and silly seduction routines. I stopped him and asked him what he really wanted to achieve. After getting Jacques criteria, I suggested we change locations.

Jacques suggested that since it was Saturday, we might check out the Montreal tourist section called The Old Port. On the way, we had to agree on some ground rules. Let’s go and just have fun with no required outcomes. No pickup lines and no trying to get any damn phone numbers.

Besides, Jacques said, that stuff wasn’t really working for him, so he was willing to use something different.

The Old Port place looked like a postcard that had come to life. It reminded me of an old marketplace in a little town, tucked away someplace in Europe.

There were big old buildings with huge stone foundations. The market square was lined with restaurants and assorted shops. The plaza— a common area for marketing between the old buildings— was bustling with shoppers and tourists and buskers to entertain them.

At the Old Port I said, “Let’s walk around and see what we find. Perhaps, a lady of interest will come our way. Then we’ll gently pull back to subtlety observe her non-verbal gestures to what’s happening in the environment, We want to pay attention to her mannerisms, how she interacts with others… and most of all, does she have a sense of humor.”

It took us less than fifteen minutes and we found the perfect lady to interact with. Jacques was excited, but hesitant. He asked me to explain what I observed to him.

I explained, she was attractive in her mid twenties, selling leather bracelets at a kiosk. Her face had many of the naturally beautiful features I’d found common in the French-Canadian women I’ve met. She wore little or no make up.

Her hair was long and dark and flowed gently across the front of her long-sleeved peasant blouse, just about seven inches below her breasts. She wore beige cotton shorts that were almost knee length. As she stood behind her kiosk, I couldn’t see what kind of footwear she had on.

After I gave Jacques my description of her, he asked what I noticed about the environment. I suggested he use the multiple points of attention technique I’d taught him to quiet distractions and open his awareness.

I saw she was gently moving in rhythm to some music. Then I heard a band playing some upbeat Peruvian music down the plaza.

When I looked back, she had stopped dancing because four young college guys approached her booth. One of the guys asked her some questions and pointed to the leather bracelets.

When she leaned over the counter and reached for the bracelet he pointed at, he shook his head and asked for a different one. As she bent forward the V-neck collar of her peasant blouse dropped down far enough to slightly expose her breasts.

As she grabbed the bracelet and looked back to confirm it was the one he wanted, she saw all four of the boys staring down her shirt at her breasts.

Immediately she straightened up and began berating the boys— in French— as she waved her hands and shooed them away. The main guy just shrugged his shoulders (with hand gestures of what’s a guy suppose to do) then his friends laughed.

Adjusting her blouse, she turned away from the frat boys and they wandered off down the plaza. Gathering her thoughts, glancing toward the Peruvian band she slowly began to move with the music. In moments, her good mood was back.

Looking at Jacques I said, “We’ve got all the environmental signals we need to get properly introduced. Let’s go have some fun.”

On the way to meet her, Jacques asked me, “What just happened? Didn’t you see her yelling at those guys? I don’t think she wants to talk to us.”

“Sure she does” I replied. “We’re going to cheer her up with some humor. But first, let’s go check out that band.”

When the song finished, I negotiated— with the Peruvian Panflute player— to buy two of their CDs. He was perplexed because the CDs were exactly the same. In his confusion, he agreed to sell me the second CD for five dollars.

Walking back to introduce ourselves to the lady at the kiosk, I asked Jacques to go into multiple points of attention and look interested in the leather stuff in her booth. That way he could watch what I did with his peripheral vision.

We got to the kiosk, and Jacques acted captivated by expert craftsmanship of the leather goods. I immediately mimicked the college boy’s routine. However, as she reached for the second bracelet she— stopped, then abruptly tugged her blouse up and— defiantly glare at me.

Still looking at the bracelet, I feigned shock, “Hey, if I can’t try it on, how do I know if it’s going to fit?”

Totally confused she said, “No…no it’s perfect for you to see how it fits. You don’t understand… it’s just I thought…” then she blushed and her voice trailed off.

Then I went into an impersonation of Pepe Le Pew, “Permit me to introduce myself, I am your new lover. Where are you, my little object of art? I am here to collect you.

The muscles in her face went soft and her mouth slowly opened, she whispered “What?”

I continued with my Pepe Le Pew routine,”Ahhh… I can tell, you are a romantic one. Perhaps you want to play Julio and Romiette.”

She broke into laughter saying, “You have the worst of a French accent I have ever heard… and you said that all wrong! It’s not Julio and Romiette.”

I came out of character and handed her one of the CDs I just bought. “Thank you for helping me enjoy my visit. Perhaps you like the music of Peru.” I said motioning to the band.

She smiled and nodded, “Yes, I like this music they play very much. It makes me happy.”

“Then let me suggest,” I continued. “someday in the future when you think about how you met me, take out this CD and randomly select a song.

If we’re in tune with each other, perhaps at that moment— when I’m back in San Diego— I’ll remember we met and play the same song on this CD.” I showed her my copy.

I turned to walk away and she said, “You didn’t ask for my phone number. How will contact me?”

“I don’t do that sort of thing with strangers,” I retorted. “However, if you like, I can sell you this card.”

Confused with a furrowed brow she asked, “What do you mean?”

“I mean give me a dollar and I’ll sell you this card.”


I agreed and smiled,” Okay two dollars.”

She frowned.

I smiled again,” Okay five dollars and that’s my final offer.”

She handed me a five-dollar bill, asking, “What is this?”

“It’s my business card, call me sometime.”

She looked at it, “This isn’t even a local number.”

“Yeah, I’m from California. But I might have a Montreal number you can call.”

“Yeah, can I have that number?”

I smiled uncomfortably, “Let me check with my friend to see if it’s okay to give a stranger the number.”

I pointed at her bracelets, “nice leather work,” She looked away and I covertly handed my Montreal cell to Jacques.

When she turned back to me, I phoned my Montreal number and Jacque answered. I asked, “Hey I just met this nice lady— I don’t even know her name— but she wants a local number to call me on. Can she call this number?”

“No problem,” Jacques responded. Then he hung up.

I answered back, “Perfect, I’ll talk to you in a little while.”

After she wrote down the number she asked, “If this is a business card aren’t you suppose to give them to people?”

“I’ve heard some people do that.”

She frowned at me, “then why did you sell it to me?”

“Two reasons. First, that card cost me around six cents. I just sold it to you for five dollars. Now that’s good business.

Secondly, you seem to be a smart lady, so I’m sure you want to get the most out of your five dollar investment… if I’m right about you. So the more you call, the more you benefit.”

I turned to walk away whispering to Jacques, “Put the phone on vibrate.”

I stopped turned around, went back and extended my hand, “I’m Steve, I’m very glad you got to meet me.”

She shook my hand, “My name is Rachelle and we are no longer strangers.”

There’s much more to the story about Rachelle (not her real name.) We became close friends and shared many nice adventures.

Here’s The Bottom line

Nonverbal influence is fun, yet it takes practice. If you’re authentic, respectful and ethical… and keep a sense of humor, then women will unconsciously know they can trust you.

When women feel a comfortable deep connection, they can go into the moment (or flow state) and become very spontaneous.

However, the opposite is also true. If you’re not ethical, they’ll know that as well.

Observe what’s going on in an environment and how a person reacts, then you can discover their programmed social responses. Pay attention, keep a sense of humor and be flexible.