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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!