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Seem Harmless


Techniques > How to > How Can I Get People to Trust Me? > Seem Harmless

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



Appear harmless. Let it seem that you are either unable or unwilling to do anybody any harm, psychological, social or otherwise.

Be friendly. Show that you like them, and care about them. Use submissive or relaxed body language. Avoid status games or let them win these. Conceal any power you have. Do not get drawn into arguments and never show anger.


When greeting someone who is sitting down, a person also sits down to avoid being in the threatening higher position.

A new manager appears at work. A peer who could be a rival initially acts in a friendly, harmless way while they size up the new manager.


One of the things we do on a constant basis is to look for threats. The greater the unfamiliarity of the situation or people, the greater our attention to possible threats. And not knowing a person means they could be a threat, so we watch them carefully. With even a small indicator that they might harm us, we back off and trust them somewhat less.

Even with people we know and trust, a threat, even an empty one in a casual argument, may be taken far more seriously than was intended.

Power is a tricky thing around harm. When another person has power, they have the potential to harm you. Yet they also have the ability to protect you, fighting off others who might harm you. This is one of the dilemmas that women have when they encounter physically powerful men.

So what?

If you want people to trust you, act harmless, at least until you find out their disposition. If they are bully, they may try to take advantage of your apparent harmlessness, so do be prepared to fight back or otherwise deflect them as necessary.

If you are more powerful, beware of them seeing harmfulness when you do not intend this. Many powerful people do not realize the fear and caution they create.

See also

Power, Vulnerability and Values

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