“Body Language (Micro-Expressions) How To Interpret It Better In A Negotiation” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“The ability to read micro-expressions is akin to being able to see more clearly the past, present, and future.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Body Language (Micro-Expressions)

How To Interpret It Better In A Negotiation”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

There it was, a momentary widening of the eyes. Did you catch that quick display? Was that surprise or fear? A good negotiator that knows how to read body language may detect those subtle body language signals. One that knows how to detect micro-expressions will gain an advantage in the negotiation. He’ll know exactly which signal the other negotiator emitted and its meaning. Micro-expressions are fleeting flashes of emotions shown quickly that last for less than one second before vanishing.

A large percentage of negotiators miss the subtle signals shown through micro-expressions during their negotiation. And the allowance of letting that information go unused can be the pivotal point upon where the negotiation might have turned to their advantage. There are seven micro-expressions universal to everyone on earth. They are fear, anger, disgust, surprise, contempt, sadness, and happiness. The following information highlights five of the micro-expressions that can be most useful in your negotiations.

Body Language Attentiveness

When sensing someone’s emotions, what cues do you observe? Do you get your first sensation from their words, or is it from their body language? Take a moment to consider those questions. Okay, do you have an answer?

If you said it comes from someone’s words, I suggest you’re missing the gestures that occurred before someone uttered their pronouncements. That’s because when people align their thoughts with their opinions, they emit actions before they speak. And it’s the action you should observe to detect what’s coming, along with the degree of truthfulness that may be attached to their words.   

Signs of Contempt

The micro-expression body language gesture displayed as contempt occurs when one corner of someone’s lip turns upward. If it’s a true micro-expression, it’ll last for less than one second. But that display will offer real insight into someone’s thoughts at that moment.

During a negotiation, if you observe this emotional gesture, regardless of the words displaying agreement, your negotiation counterpart internally possesses a dislike for some parts of your offer. Thus, it behooves you to note the action, which will allow you to adopt the appropriate strategy to address it.

Anger Body Language Sign

Some negotiators attempt to feign anger during a negotiation as a means to manipulate their opponent emotionally. It may occur in the form of throwing a full-blown temper tantrum or something milder such as sulking.

When genuine anger is displayed, one’s eyes will appear wider with a piercing or glaring appearance, their eyebrows will be down and drawn together, and they’ll be a narrowing of the lips. Noting these differences between the feigned appearance will allow you greater insight into the negotiator’s mental mindset that’s displaying this gesture.  

Surprise Micro-Expression

A person displays genuine surprise through raised eyebrows, eyes widened, and mouth agape. Thus, if a negotiator attempts to feign surprise at an offer you make and he doesn’t show the signs mentioned, he’s not as surprised as he’d have you believe. Accordingly, you might adopt one of two responses.

The first response might be to ignore his guise and continue the negotiation as though you’d not observed anything. The other option might be to display the same gestures as his to see if he comments. If he doesn’t comment, continue as though neither of you perceived the display of the other. If he comments, he’ll have laid his concern in the open. You can choose the appropriate action from there.

Disgust Micro-Expression

The genuine display of disgust is another micro-expression you should become tuned to in your negotiation. The reason being, it can give insight into the degree that your counterpart is considering your offer. If you note a wrinkling in his nose, along with his upper lip raised, you’ve detected the sign of disgust. Another way to observe this gesture is to think of someone displaying the sense of smelling something displeasing.

Remember, if the display lasts for more than one second, most likely, the opposing negotiator wants to send a nonverbal signal to force the perception that he doesn’t like your offer. Compare that to the true micro-expression of less than one second that indicates the emotion was unfiltered by his brain before it was displayed. In that case, he’s not attempting to sway you with the action; it’s his genuine inner thought.

Micro-Expression of Fear

Fear is another micro-expression you should be alert to in a negotiation. It can become a premier bellwether to how close you are to closing a deal or having an offer accepted. It can also signal what a negotiator is most afraid of not receiving or relinquishing to achieve his negotiation goals.

Genuine fear appears as lips slightly stretched, eyebrows raised and pulled together, along with the upper eyelids raised. When you note this display, question what caused it. If it happened when you signaled you’d remove an offer from the negotiation, observe the threat to do so alarmed your opponent. That means you have leverage with the withdrawal of your proposal, which can become a position to motivate the other negotiator to adopt a specific action.


As you can see, the seat of emotions lies within one’s face. Accordingly, the body language gestures conveyed during different points in a negotiation reveals the thoughts of one’s emotions. The micro-expressions exhibited highlight those points.  

Thus, to negotiate better, once you notice the gestures mentioned, note what you and the other negotiator discussed before that person produced what you observed. To do that, you must be tuned in better to the body language signals emitted during a negotiation, yours and that of the other negotiator. The gestures you emit signals your thoughts, too. So, if you commit to becoming more observant of the body language signs displayed in your negotiations, you’ll increase the outcomes of every negotiation in which you engage. 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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