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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 August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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