How nodding can help you win over your audience

You can establish and improve rapport with a single conversation partner or a room full of listeners simply by nodding your head as you make your points. Here’s the science behind it.

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Are you nodding your head yes at this little nugget of truth? Are you nodding it vigorously and frequently?

Studies show that women engaged in conversation tend to nod more often and with more emphasis than men. What’s more, men and women both seem to pick up on this rhythm, nodding more frequently when talking to a woman than they do when chatting with a man.

What’s really going on here? Does a man feel that he has to act more like a woman when he speaks with one? Do women think it’s all right to be a “yes” woman among their own, but hold their heads in check when speaking with a man?

The answer has less to do with social manners and more to do with simple motion, say researchers at the University of Virginia’s Human Dynamics Lab: People adjust their nodding to match the head movements of their conversational partners, no matter who they are.

At the UVA lab, psychologist Steven Boker and his colleagues recorded the head movements of male and female students in the lab as they had short conversations with another student via video link.

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