Body Language For Negotiators
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In any business encounter (from high stakes
negotiation to everyday bargaining situations) you are communicating
over two channels – verbal and nonverbal – resulting in two distinct
conversations going on at the same time. While a well-designed
bargaining strategy is obviously important, it’s not the most important
message you send. Communication research shows that in a thirty-minute
negotiation, two people can send over eight hundred different nonverbal
signals. If you focus on the verbal exchange alone and ignore the
nonverbal element, you stand a high chance of coming away from that
negotiation wondering why in the world your brilliantly constructed
bargaining plan didn’t work out the way it was supposed to.
Here are five body language guidelines to help
you hold your own when you negotiate.
1. Start off with the right stuff
It all begins with the right attitude.
Regardless of how tiring or frustrating your day may have been, before
you enter the meeting room, pull your shoulders back, hold your head
high, take a deep breath, and walk in as your “best self” -- exuding
ease and energy.
Just after entering the meeting room, stop for
a moment and look around at the person or group that has already
assembled. Open your eyes slightly larger than usual. This will trigger
an “eyebrow flash” (a slight upward movement that is a universal signal
of recognition and welcome). Smile.
Make eye contact with all of your counterparts.
A simple way to enhance positive eye contact is to look at eyes long
enough to know what color they are.
2. Shake hands
You can develop an immediate and positive
connection with someone by simply shaking their hand – if you do it
• Whenever possible, you should initiate the
handshake. Lean forward and extend your hand with your palm facing
• Keep your
body squared off to the other person – facing him or her fully.
• Maintain eye
contact and continue to smile.
sure you have palm-to-palm contact and that the web of
you hand (the skin between your thumb and first finger) touches the web
of the other person’s.
• Press firmly – people will judge you as
indecisive or weak if you offer a limp grip – but don’t be overly
aggressive and squeeze too hard.
• Hold the
other person's hand a second longer than you are naturally inclined to
do. This conveys additional sincerity and quite literally "holds" the
other person's attention while you exchange greetings.
• Start talking
before you let go: "It's great to see you" or "I’m so glad to be here."
If you are meeting for the first time, introduce yourself.
• When you
break eye contact, don’t look down (it’s a submission signal). Rather,
keep your head up and move your eyes to the side.
3. Continue building rapport.
In negotiations, rapport is the foundation for
a “win-win” outcome. Everything you have done from the time you entered
the room until now has been geared to send rapport-building nonverbal
statements. To continue building rapport, remember to maintain eye
contact, lean forward, use head nods of encouragement, and smile when
The most powerful sign of rapport – and one
that you already do (unconsciously) around people you like and respect
– is to mirror the other person’s body postures, gestures, expressions,
breathing pattern, etc. Mirroring builds agreement, but if you use
mirroring as a technique, be subtle. Allow two or three seconds to go
by before gradually changing your body language to (more or less)
reflect that of the other person.
4. Display confidence.
Showing your torso is one way of demonstrating
a high level of confidence, security or trust. The more you cover your
torso with folded arms, crossed legs, etc. the more it appears that you
need to protect or defend yourself. Feet also say a lot about your
self-confidence. When you stand with your feet close together, you can
seem timid or hesitant. But when you widen your stance, relax your
knees and center your weight in your lower body, you look more “solid”
and sure of yourself.
When you need to be seen as assertive, remember
that power is displayed by height and space. If you stand you will look
more powerful to those who are seated. If you move around, the
additional space you take up adds to that impression. If you are
sitting, you can still project power by stretching your legs and arms
and by spreading out your belongings on the conference table, and
claiming more territory.
5. Make a positive final impression.
In the same way you conveyed energy and ease
during your entrance, and projected confidence throughout the
negotiation process, be sure you also make a strong exit. Stand tall,
shake hands warmly, and leave your counterpart with the impression that
you are someone he or she should look forward to dealing with in the
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2011-09-07 11:03:45 in Personal Articles