“If image in negotiation is everything, body language is the brush that paints that image.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)
“5 Body Language Mistakes People Make
That Hamper Winning Negotiations”
People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.
During negotiations, negotiators emit gestures that add meaning to spoken words. Some gestures enhance negotiation efforts – some do not. The following are five body language mistakes that hamper a negotiator’s effort to win negotiations. Question – are you making any of these mistakes?
Control your emotions. Before delving into the five body language mistakes, we must address the mental attitude one carries into a negotiation. The mental attitude one possesses before and during negotiations impacts the gestures displayed. So, get your head in the game before entering a negotiation.
Maintaining your chosen and presented demeanor will signal that you are not ruffled by what your opposition does. And do not react out of character if an unanticipated occurrence happens during your interactions.
Now that I have heightened the importance of a negotiator’s mental attitude, I will address the importance of hand movement.
When we speak, our hands convey an enormous amount of information. Thus, we should be mindful of the information they share about our inner thoughts.
Take note of how someone shakes your hand and how you shake theirs. One dominating handshake occurs when one person has their hand on top with the other person’s hand on the bottom. The top hand is signaling an attempt at dominance. If you initiate a handshake in that manner, your action may become perceived as the starting point of superiority. In that case, the opposing negotiator may dig in their heels at the outset of the negotiation, making it more difficult as you engage further.
Hands holding each other, clasped hands, can project the appearance of hopeful anticipation. It may also serve as a need to comfort one’s self. Either way, it may message your hopefulness about the discussed matter. And that insight can be used as leverage against you.
When a negotiator stabs the air with their gestures, they emphasize their expressed point. The stronger the act, the greater the emotion displayed.
If you choose to make this display during your negotiation, do so at points intended to enhance your offer or counteroffer. Otherwise, it will expose your incontinence, which will weaken your negotiation position.
Like our hands, the displays we make with our arms signal the degree of comfort or discomfort we feel. In particular, note the discussion when you see the following gestures.
Crossed arms do not necessarily indicate a negotiator is closed or not accepting of the topic that you are discussing. One must observe accompanying signals as validation (e.g., stepping back, tonality change, altering demeanor). Thus, be aware of when you cross your arms. And do not do so when you like an offer or make a counteroffer. The mixed message between your words and body language may be the source of confusion for your negotiation counterpart.
When negotiators are at ease, they tend to splay their elbows. When cautious or guarded, a negotiator will show such signs by having their elbows pressed more tightly to their body. So, be aware of when you emit this sign. And do not do so when attempting to convince your counterpart to accept your offer.
A negotiator’s body always seeks a state of comfort. And when it is out of that state, it attempts to regain solace by committing gestures that might soothe itself. Fidgeting is another easy sign to spot, signaling anxiety. So, do not fidget when showing contemplation or extending significant offers.
4. Leaning Back/Forward
For the next few seconds, consider a pleasant or unpleasant experience you had recently. What body language movements did you perform while thinking about that experience? Depending on the severity of the situation you recalled, you most likely leaned backward or forward.
During negotiations, you lean forward when stressing a point or making an offer. And your body moves backward from an idea or proposition that is not appealing. Most of the time, you are not aware of that action.
Accordingly, when you wish to highlight an offer that you want to have perceived as valuable, lean in as you present it. Do not lean in when you are not in agreement with an offer unless you want to emit the signal that you are not afraid of disclosing your disdain.
5. Persona – Small/Big Gestures
During a negotiation, how you project yourself determines how the opposition interacts with you. Thus, it would be best to display your persona to match the demeanor you want others to perceive.
When it serves your purpose to appear larger, place your hands on your hips – studies have shown that also increases one’s confidence. Do not shrink by slumping or hunching your shoulders. That will weaken your persona.
One mistake negotiators make with their body language gestures during negotiations is making small gestures when their offer suggests significant outcomes. If your offer is grandiose, show it through large gestures.
The other mistake negotiators make is displaying large gestures when an offer is small or slightly incremental to a previous proposition. Make your gestures appropriate to the offered size of your proposals.
To win more negotiations, you must be more aware of your body language. By avoiding the five body language mistakes mentioned, you will increase your chances of having a more successful negotiation outcome. And everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
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