“7 Proven Micro-Expressions That Increase Your Body Language And Negotiation Skills” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Reading someone’s micro-expressions is like seeing their inner thoughts – thoughts that not even they may be aware of.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“7 Proven Micro-Expressions That Increase

Your Body Language And Negotiation Skills”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Are you aware of micro-expressions, and do you know their value in a negotiation? Micro-expressions are facial appearances that occur within a fraction of a second. And that momentary display exposes an involuntary emotional leakage of a person’s genuine emotions.

The following is advice about recognizing the body language of micro-expressions and how accurately reading them will improve your negotiation skills. Once you become aware of and use your ability to read micro-expressions in negotiations, your negotiation skills will increase, and you will become better positioned to deal with people.

Seven Micro-Expressions That Can Be Used To Enhance Negotiation Skills

Micro-expressions give great insight into someone’s inner thoughts, thoughts a person may not speak aloud. Since the display of a micro-expression lasts for a fraction of a second, it occurs before the brain filters the shown emotion. That means what you see is the honest thought that person has about what you are discussing. And in most cases, it is real, not contrived! More about real versus contrived later.

The seven body language facial micro-expressions are:

1. Fear

Fear can signal a negotiator’s disgust or dread when considering not reaching their goals. In that state of mind, a negotiator may become irrational, leading to dangerous interactions.

When someone shows the micro-expression of fear, the displayer has their lips slightly stretched, eyebrows raised and pulled together, and their upper eyelids lifted.

2. Anger

Anytime you witness anger, heighten your awareness. In particular, when someone flashes the expression, note what occurred before the display. To increase your negotiation skills, be mindful of how you proceed. Heed such signs as a first alert of possible challenges ahead.

When a negotiator shows genuine anger in negotiation, their eyes will appear wider and have a piercing or glaring presence, their eyebrows will be down and drawn together, and they will narrow their lips.

3. Disgust

The genuine display of disgust is another micro-expression to observe in your negotiation. It can give insight into what the other negotiator thinks about the offers made – yours and theirs. And while this display does not indicate immediate danger, it may flip the switch that leads to it.

One displays the micro-expression of disgust through the wrinkling of the nose, along with the upper lip raised. Another way to observe this gesture is to envision someone smelling something unpleasant.

4. Surprise

The body language micro-expression of surprise can have several meanings in a negotiation because surprise can signal pleasantness or the intent of ill will. And that depends on what triggered the micro-expression of surprise.

A person displays genuine surprise through raised eyebrows, widened eyes, and mouth agape. To assess its meaning per the person expressing it, look for other signs that give a greater sense to the display.

5. Contempt

A display of contempt may signify that the other negotiator despises something you have said or done. If so, it may lead to friction. In a negotiation, a negotiator reveals the micro-expression of contempt when they turn the corner of one lip upward. 

6. Sadness

The micro-expression of sadness is a sign that may be confusing in a negotiation. A negotiator may wonder, did the display occur due to the perception of a missed opportunity – was an offensive remark made?

If you witness this display, investigate why your opposite made it. Gather meaningful feedback to know which direction to continue the negotiation.

A negotiator displays sadness through drooping eyelids with downturned lips. A change in one’s voice inflection and tonality may also accompany the gesture.

7. Happiness

Similar to sadness, the micro-expression of happiness shown in a negotiation should only be excepted as a positive occurrence once its displayed reasons are understood. Do not become happy simply because the other negotiator is happy. They may be joyful that you are about to fall into a trap, and you do not want that to happen.

A negotiator displays happiness through wide eyes, a smile, raised cheeks, and a degree of exhibited gaiety.

Micro-expression Advice

So, now that you know the seven facial micro-expressions to observe when negotiating, what should you do when you sense one or several?

1. Note the moment the other negotiator made the display.

2. Assess if you sensed a genuine or feigned micro-expression. I know I said genuine micro-expressions occur before the brain censors the display. But some good negotiators will fake an expression to manipulate your thoughts.

3. When recognizing a micro-expression, note it. Then, consider whether to say something or allow time to gather more information from other micro-expressions.


Reading body language gives a negotiator an advantage in a negotiation. And capturing micro-expression displays enriches a negotiator’s negotiation skills and outcomes.

Thus, the more awareness you have of the micro-expressions displayed in your negotiations, the greater your ability will become to control the negotiation flow and its outcome. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

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After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

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