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Essential Body Language for Negotiation

Essential Body Language for Negotiation

    In a consumer-driven society, human interaction is essential to sustaining economic success. How we communicate with each other determines how we live our lives and build relationships. Negotiation and communication are necessary skills in any relationship. Learning to control the signals you are sending with your body is a great way to ensure you will always get your point across clearly and without confusion. Regardless of what medium people use to interact and connect on (i.e. social media, email, text messaging, or face-to-face conversation), body language is used in every form of communication.

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    Reading Body Language

    When it comes to personal happiness and success, it’s important to recognize how body language influences our interactions. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how prepared you are to engage in negotiations if you don’t understand what the other person’s posture is telling you. Here are some cues to help you decipher your partner’s, or opponent’s, body language.

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    • Identify a Baseline: Baselining involves observing people when they’re not under pressure. While interaction and discussing topics informally, ask several questions to which you are already familiar with the answers. Observe your partner’s behavior and body language as they answer the questions in a calm, honest, and relaxed state of being. Identifying a baseline aids in correctly interpreting body language during negotiations.
    • Hunt for “Gesture Clusters”: Gesture clusters are nonverbal cues disguised in a set of movements, actions, or even postures that emphasize a certain point of view. During negotiations, be aware of the three key nonverbal signals: engagement actions, disagreement actions, and tension cues.
      • Engagement Actions: (head nods, forward leans, eye contact) These represent and point out interest and agreement.
      • Disagreement Actions: (leaning back, frowning, looking away) Indicate disinterest, annoyance, suspicion, and possibly boredom.
      • Tension Cues: (face-touching, firmly crossed ankles, high vocal-tone) Define clear signs of discomfort and show that your partner isn’t satisfied with how things are being handled or dealt with.

    Controlling Your Body Language

    In order to find a compromise during negotiations, it’s essential for you to have power over your own body language. If your end goal is to find a reasonable agreement, incorporate these nonverbal gestures to ensure that you are sending the right signals.

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    • Nod Your Head: Even when you’re in the middle of a disagreement or being harshly criticized, nod your head and maintain eye contact. This nonverbal cue defuses tension and leads to alignment, especially during contentious conversations.
    • Make Eye Contact: During a negotiation, look someone in the eye as much as possible, especially if they are speaking, because it shows that you’re listening. Individuals who feel that their concerns have been validated and addressed are more likely to be open to negotiating. Moreover, looking someone in the eye is also the best way to let them know that you are confident in their convictions and mean what you say.
    • Smile Like You Mean It: Smiling is always a good sign during negotiations. Staying positive is essential to smiling because it aids in clear and effective thinking. The party you’re negotiating with will be more receptive toward what you’re saying, while simultaneously indicating that you’re open to their ideas too.
    • Keep Yourself Open: Keep yourself pleasant and appealing. Lean in, be engaged in the conversation, and keep an open stance. Be prepared by setting more boundaries than you actually have to give yourself more room to give and take. Set three times as many expectations as you think you need to show you’re not stubborn or desperate to strike a deal.
    • Mimic the Other Party: People respond better psychologically to those they feel are similar to them in certain manners. Building short term trust with someone – a necessity for successful negotiations – requires mirroring your opponent’s behavior. Take note of their body language when they speak and respond to them with the same enthusiasm.
    • Control Your Hands: When you’re negotiating, make sure your hands project confidence and poise. Shaky or awkward hand gestures indicate nervousness and stress, allowing your counterpart to take advantage of the situation. To remain in control, don’t clasp your hands together or fidget. Instead, place your hands just below your chest and put your fingers together when you want to make a point confidently.
    • Relax Your Body: Any gestures that indicate you’re anxious or worried will demonstrate to your opponent that something is wrong. Plant your feet firmly on the ground to show your resolve and remain confident. Your counterpart has to see that you’re calm and self-assured. You have to adopt a relaxed body position in order to reduce the tension. To lead your partner toward relaxation, combine your body’s posture with soft-spoken, non-aggressive remarks. Be patient explaining things in negotiations because topics that are obvious to you may be foreign to them. By doing this, you’ll gain your counterpart’s trust, ensuring a better result.
    • Keep A Poker Face: It’s a common misconception that being a good negotiator involves a smart mouth and a quick tongue. A good poker face, however, is essential to being successful in negotiations. The best negotiators do their homework and support their needs with strong data and facts, but never show their hand.

    Negotiating successfully is about more than just saying the right thing. Reading and controlling body language in a negotiation is critical if you want to get a good deal. You can always use body language to your advantage as you observe your counterpart. Now that you know what mixed signals to look for, expose their weakness. Take advantage of the situation and settle on an excellent bargain to gain the upper hand. It’s all about reading between the lines, right? Good luck!

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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