“Cognitive Dissonance – Body Language How To See What Is Not Said To Increase Skills” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Reading body language can cast light upon the hidden thoughts lurking in the darkness of someone’s mind.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“Cognitive Dissonance – Body Language

How To See What Is Not Said To Increase Skills”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

I heard what he said. But I saw his body language, and that revealed his unspoken words. And he appeared to be dealing with cognitive dissonance, a conflict between his actions and beliefs.

Everyone’s body emits signals they give greater insight into a person’s mindset. And the better you read those signals, the better you will become at detecting someone’s hidden thoughts, even when their words attempt to create a different perception.

If you want to know more about reading body language and cognitive dissonance to understand better those you deal with, continue. If you are not interested in this topic, that is okay, too. Because it is okay to miss hidden signals if you do not mind potentially placing yourself at a disadvantage in everyday dealings with people.

Body Language and Cognitive Dissonance

Sometimes you will engage people using your most persuasive arguments – and they will be unmoved. You may note their unyielding acceptance of your pronouncement by the rigidness of their body or their non-approval by shaking their head. You might also note their gesticulations – animatedly making gestures. Their body language signs may be off-putting until you realize the source of their mindset, which could stem from their cognitive dissonance.  

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the position or beliefs one states they have that conflict with one’s actions. You might ask, what does this have to do with gaining insight into someone’s unspoken words and hearing those words through that person’s body language? The answer is that it has much to do with the person’s thoughts and why they are engaging in those thoughts.

I will explain by using an example. Suppose someone believed the earth was flat and had expounded on their assertions in an environment where others accepted their posing, which led to that person’s increased stature and credibility. Then, indisputable evidence gained acceptance that the earth was not flat, and more people began to accept that premise. At some point, our earth-flat purveyor knows he has to succumb to the irrefutable truth, but he thinks he will lose credibility.  

Depending on the individual’s personality type, which will play a significant role in the body language gestures emitted, you may witness a variety of signals. As such, they may:

1. Make or use animated or excited gestures as they speak – why? They may do so to give their pronouncement more energy to convince you that they are right while attempting to fortify themselves of the belief.  

2. Or seek a quiet manner in which they can withdraw their claims and maintain a modicum of statesmanship by accepting reality for the value it contains – the body language gestures being subdued and low-key.

Again, a person’s emitted actions will stem from the individual type with whom you are dealing.

Cognitive dissonance occurs more than you may think or realize. So, never discount a person’s stance or position simply because of their cognitive dissonance. Do not get wrapped in someone’s self-disputes. Self-conflicts can be devastating. Read the signs that indicate the conflicts they are dealing with and avoid that dilemma.

Body Language – Cognitive Dissonance and Pattern Interrupts

When you are unsure of what someone’s attempt is and suspect they may be dealing with cognitive dissonance as they speak, try using a pattern interrupt to alter their current pronouncements. That can be anything you say or do that affects the change you are seeking (i.e., I hear what you are saying, but what does John think about that?) – before that, there has been no mention of John.

As that person pauses to reflect on your action/question, observe the body language gestures they emit. Some of those gestures might be:

1. Head cocked to one side – inquisitive – that person’s thought possibly being, who is John, or how do you know about John, or what has John told you?

2. Surprise – eyes wide, mouth agape – several things could be occurring in that person’s mind – they may be contemplating what you know or may not know. Either way, they will expose some or all of the thoughts they were thinking. And that will allow you insight to adjust your dealings with them.  

3. Withdrawal (head/body drooping and physically moving backward) – Seeing these body language gestures usually denotes someone feeling taken aback, mentally unsure, or unsure of what action to take next.

The point is when you use pattern interrupts to alter people’s existing line of thinking, they will give you invaluable insight into their hidden thoughts via body language. Take note of those signals. By doing so, you will gain a greater understanding of that person at that moment and increase your communication and negotiation skills.   


Body language plays a massive role in any communication, even more so when negotiating – and you are always negotiating. And cognitive dissonance can be a powerful motivator for someone acting in a particular manner.

By learning how to use the mentioned insights and implementing them when appropriate, you will become more attuned to seeing what others do not say. They will display it via their body language, which will also assist in uncovering their cognitive dissonance. That will allow you to increase your communication skills and make you more formidable when you deal with others. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating! 

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