Negotiation experts typically advise us to meet with our counterparts in person whenever possible rather than relying on the telephone or internet. As convenient as electronic media may be, they can’t transmit the visual cues that help convey valuable information and forge connections in face-to-face talks. Without access to gestures and facial expressions, those who negotiate at a distance have trouble accurately “reading each other” and building rapport.
Your body can say a lot more than your voice in business, and because we’re humans sometimes our involuntary gestures can bring to the surface emotions we want to keep hidden. Anxiety is one of the most common emotions a business negotiator can sense.
Recognizing body language
As a business person, recognizing body language should be included in your set of skills. Spotting a rookie has never been easier. Erratic gestures, voice murmuring, excessive sweating, shaking, and even excessive blinking, are clear signs of anxiety. You can use them to your advantage; however make sure they’re not fabricated gestures. Believe it or not, some negotiators like to pretend they’re rookies just to catch an opponent off guard.
Here is a list of important body language messages:
- Keep your hands still – The best way to show an opponent that you’re nervous is to clasp or fidget your hands irregularly. Control those gestures and if you want to make a point, put your fingers together just below the chest area.
Assume a relaxed body posture – Easing that tension you’re feeling in your bones is the best way to deal with negotiations. Your heart rate might be faster, but opponents can’t hear it.
- Making eye contact – The golden rule of successful negotiations is eye contact. It might also be your worst enemy. Stressed, anxious, afraid negotiators don’t like to make eye contact, or they don’t have the courage to look their counterparts in the eye. Stop this because otherwise you won’t be able to close a good deal. Find the nerve to look at your business associate straight in the eye and it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll end up with good bargain.
- 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.
“Tells” of what your opponent is thinking.
- Hand on cheek vs. hand under chin – When you’re speaking your case, if they put their hand on their cheek, then they’re absorbed and interested in what you’re saying! Keep it up. However, if their hand is under their chin (holding up their head) generally they are bored and you’ve lost their interest. Try quickly to gain it back.
- Chin Stroking vs. Lint Picking – When you begin testing the waters and start broaching the heart of what you are negotiating for, watch the other person. If they start stroking their chin, they are about to make a decision. If they are looking at you in the eye, they are seriously considering your proposal. Again, this is a good sign so pay attention! On the other hand if they start picking at invisible lint on their clothes, you’re in muddy waters. Generally this signifies that they disagree or disapprove with what you’re saying but are hesitant to voice it. This is a great time to ask them how they’re feeling.
- Head Tilting – Your final offer or counter proposal is on the table. As you are wrapping it up, the other person tilts their head as they’re listening. This is a great sign! They are engaged and interested. Tilt your head back. This is a nonverbal sign that you are both in agreement.
Every successful negotiator knows that engagement, tension, and disengagement, are important signals that they have to observe when it comes to the body language of their counterparts. Engagement actions (head nods, forward leans, and eye contact) point out interest and agreement; on the other hand, disengagement actions (leaning back, frowns, looking away) indicate that the individual is uninterested, annoyed, suspicious or even bored. Tension cues (face-touching, firmly crossed ankles and higher vocal tone) are a clear sign of discomfort, which means that your opponent isn’t satisfied with how things are proceeding.
Nonverbal signals generally come about in a ‘gesture cluster’ – a set of movements, actions and even postures that emphasize a certain point of view. For instance, if you notice that your opponent keeps fidgeting, doesn’t look you in the eye and wrings their hands, you can be sure that they’re anxious and intend to leave. It’s recommended to search for three nonverbal cues that highlight the same message.
Once you become good at deciphering the unspoken word that conveys a hidden meaning, you’ll be on your way to getting more out of every negotiation session.
Please “Like” and share your comments. Additional training resources are located here.