“Body Language – How To Read Bully Signs In A Negotiation”

“When dealing with a bully, understand his source of motivation. From that will come greater insight about how to deal with him.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Body Language – How To Read Bully Signs In A Negotiation”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

How do you know when someone attempts to bully you? At what point does your sense of being bullied occur? Is it something you experience through someone’s body language, or does it come from a different sensation? Do you have different experiences of being bullied in a negotiation than in other aspects of your life?

The point is, you should know what triggers your perspective of someone attempting to bully you. And you should note when it occurs in different environments. The reason being, you’ll respond differently to someone’s efforts depending on the setting. The following are body language signs to observe when someone is genuinely attempting to bully you and how you can respond by using the right negotiation tactics.   

Identifying Bully Type

The first aspect of dealing with a bully is knowing what he’ll do to perpetuate his efforts. Thus, this identification process is paramount to the strategies you’ll create to combat him. As part of the identification process, you must be attentive to what he says, the words he uses to make his pronouncements. That means you have to listen intently and not be thinking of the rebuttals you’ll offer while he’s speaking.

1. Listening

A bully who has an authoritarian personality may not be a bully at all. He may take tough negotiation stances because he’s found that persona to be most beneficial for his purposes. If you discover this to be accurate, consider adopting one of three positions. You can challenge him by adopting his persona – adopt a natural position (one that doesn’t challenge nor retreat from him) – or be subservient. The purpose of adopting either approach is to get him to disclose how he’ll respond to your position. From there, adopt the negotiation strategy that best serves your purpose.

2. Weakness Seeks Strength

Someone’s perception becomes their reality. Thus, sometimes a negotiator will perceive himself as weak, and to rectify that feeling, he’ll attempt to gain dominance over another person. He’s seeking the inner need for self-emotional recognition of the value he has within himself. It’s important to recognize this need in a bully because you may be able to assuage his feelings by connecting with him on an emotional level, be it from a direct challenge or acquiesces. If you identify this bully type, engage in the appropriate strategy that follows.  

Negotiation Strategies To Deal With Bullies

1. Bully Supporters

Sometimes, a weak opponent will seek the status of anyone that has sway with another individual’s base. If you can insert yourself within their forces or have surrogates do so on your behalf, you can split that support. That will allow you to reduce the perceived strength of the bully. Once he realizes he doesn’t have the backing of his base, he’ll appear less threatening.

2. Understanding Bully And His Backers

In a negotiation, negotiators seek advantages based on the perceived value of an outcome. Thus, what you believe the two of you are negotiating for may not be of most importance to your opponent. Instead, he may be attempting to display an elevated spirit to his backers, or whatever his source of motivation is, by merely standing up to you. In essence, his position may be to say he did it – whatever it is. Suffice it to say, address the source of his motivation before addressing him.

3. Evoking Morality

Sometimes, you can appeal to a bully’s morality in an attempt to have him cease his bullying ways. Depending on the individual, appealing to his humanistic side may be the trigger that causes him to stop his efforts. Even in a worst-case scenario, such an appeal may cause him to pause his actions momentarily, and that will give you time to consider other strategies to employ.

4. Dealing With Fear

Fear is a powerful motivator. In some cases, it will cause a person to engage in actions that they’d otherwise avoid. To uncover a bully’s sense of fear, use logic to extract the sources driving his behavior.

You may discover that he’s attempting to emulate someone that he idolizes. If that’s the case, appeal to the bully through the façade of that person. In essence, you want him to sense his idol is telling him to alter his bullying ways and become more amenable.

5. Measuring Success

In any negotiation, you must know how an opponent measures success. That’s especially true when someone is attempting to bully you. In some situations, a bully gears his efforts to get you to back down. Thus, in a negotiation, if he asks for a concession and you can painlessly accommodate his request, your act may defuse his bullying efforts. Just make sure he has the sense that he earned your accommodation from the strength you possessed, not from weakness.


When you deal with a bully, you must see yourself as strong and sturdy. A bully feeds off of weakness. Thus, if you project weakness, you’ll encourage him to continue his actions. Therefore, during your negotiation and other aspects of your life, see yourself as powerful and influential. Use the bullying strategies mentioned to buttress your mental and emotional state of mind in all of your negotiations. You’ll be amazed at how quickly a bully will alter his behavior once he senses that you’re no easy target. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

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

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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