“Body Language – How To Avoid Conflict And Win More Negotiations” – Negotiation Insight

To avoid some conflicts, observe body language signals that foretell their arrival.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“Body Language – How To Avoid

Conflict And Win More Negotiations”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

How many opportunities do you miss by missing body language signals during negotiations? And what do you think missing those signals cost? Even more, how many of those missed signs do you believe lead to conflict?

There are leading signs that indicate pending conflict during negotiations. Some stem from prior relationships, and some occur due to their value perspective. When you negotiate, keep those thoughts in mind. You will gain insight via the body language gestures a negotiator emits based on those factors.

So, what are a few body language signals that can lead to conflict in a negotiation? What follows is the answer to that question. And the ways you can increase your negotiation outcomes by reading body language more accurately to avoid conflict that stems from missed body language signs. Being observant of nonverbal signals gives you greater control of the negotiation development, flow, and conclusion.

Body Language Signs That Lead To Conflict

It is so easy to stumble into a conflict unknowingly. Some may occur as the result of a question posed, and others may occur due to either negotiator not thinking about the consequences of a question. In either situation, note responding body language gestures that indicate a lack of easiness. 

Body Language Signs Noting Uneasiness

1. Change In Mood Or Temperament 

Always be observant of mood shifts during a negotiation. Some negotiators convey a mood or temperament shift by leaning back and staying in the position for a prolonged time. That gesture states, I am not as close to our discussion as I was prior.

And, if they do so with a sense of pronouncement (e.g., loudly exhaling), they are giving a more significant definition to their gesture to indicate their position. The first time it occurs is noteworthy because it could be the beginning salvo that escalates into conflict.

2. Smiling Through Clenched Teeth

Another sign to note is the negotiator that smiles at an offer or words through clenched teeth. The gesture suggests that he is attempting to hold something back – his honest thoughts and feelings. He will most likely be in thought mode to determine how best to respond. Note this gesture, too, because it may also prove to be the beginning of what later leads to conflict.  

3. Deliberate And Pronounced Hand Movements

Say to yourself, right now, with slow and deliberate hand movements, “That is my best offer – take it or leave it.” How did you feel? Did you get a sense of finality? Was there a sense of aggression? All of those emotions can be conveyed or perceived during a negotiation through hand movements. So, note what hands are saying, yours and that of the opposition. The first negative sign of them sets the tone and pace of possible conflict. As that continues, the pace quickens.

Body Language Signs Of Aggression

There are ominous body language signs that should warrant your immediate attention regardless of when they occur in a negotiation. They are:

1. Clenched Fist

Anytime you witness a negotiator with clenched fists, that is a sign of displeasure with the proceedings.

2. Voice Escalation

When negotiators increase the volume of their voice, they are signaling a statement indicating the stressing of a point. And the hidden aspect of that action is, their temper is rising.

3. Standing Up

If you have been seated and a negotiator stands up, the body language gesture signal is, I will tower over you to get my point across.   

In every situation when tensions are on the move upward, take note of them. Assess if and when you might address them to prevent conflict from eroding the negotiation. And be mindful of where such actions may lead.


Before you can accurately foretell the meaning of a negotiator’s body language gestures, you must establish her baseline for how and when she emits them. To do that, note the gestures she exhibits when she is calm. And do the same when she is in more of a stressful situation. Noting how she responds in such cases will help you establish the meaning of her signals throughout the negotiation. 

Active Listening

Negotiators miss vital body language signs that later lead to conflicts because of their lack of active listening. If you engage in active listening, that act alone will increase your chances of observing body language signals that you otherwise might miss. Why?

Because while you are paying attention to what someone says, you become more attentive. And that attentiveness allows you to capture the nuances of how someone pronounces and uses their words and the gestures that accompany them. That means you will also note the link between their body language expressions and phrases.

Never discount the value of active listening to increase your sense of awareness. Actively listening will unlock hidden messages revealed through someone’s body language. From that insight, you will be better at detecting when conflict may be looming. That will allow you to take a detour to avoid it and enrich your chances of having a better negotiation outcome. 


Negotiators error throughout the negotiation by not observing body language and nonverbal gestures, which later lead to conflicts. But you can prevent some conflicts by noting what has been mentioned and detecting body language signs that lead to conflict during your negotiations.

So, if you wish to win more negotiations, avoid conflicts by reading the body language signs that foretell their arrival. Accordingly, once you become adept at identifying those signals, you will win more negotiations. And everything will be right with the world. 

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

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