Always be aware of the intent of a negotiator’s body language distraction in a negotiation. It may be the cause of you losing focus or the source that causes you to lose everything. -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)
People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.
Recall the last time you lost focus in a negotiation? What caused it? Was it a nonverbal signal you interpreted, someone’s body language whose meaning you couldn’t read? A lack of focus, especially one caused by an intentional body language distraction, can become very costly in a negotiation. Here’s how to challenge anyone that uses distractions to waylay your negotiation efforts and boost your negotiation outcomes.
Levels of Distraction
The first thing you must know is what you perceive when you sense a body language distraction. Was it the waving of a hand, a pointed finger, the clearing of one’s throat that attracted your attention?
In some cases, some distractions will be a mere nuisance. They won’t impact your thought process or how you’re negotiating. Then, there are distractions that you must address immediately, such as pounding a table while fiercely stating displeasure with an offer.
Distractions impact a negotiation based on the negotiators engaged in the talks. They’re also affected by what the negotiation entails and when they occur in the dialog exchanges. Thus, those are factors to consider per the intent of the distraction. Nevertheless, when distractions confront you, consider categorizing them, and their impact, before addressing them.
While the following body language gestures may seem small, either combined or an increasing occurrence of them should alert you to the possible need for intervention.
Throat Clearing (by you or the opposing negotiator)
If this frequently occurs (you’d be the one to determine what is frequent) based on your assessment, do or don’t raise an issue about it. That is, not until it crosses your threshold of warranting attention, should you address it. Throat clearing can be a sign of stress. If the negotiation has reached that level, the cause of the pressure would need addressing.
Handwaving is another form of expressing one’s inner feelings and emotions. When a negotiator becomes excited, he’ll tend to become more animated through this gesture. If you observe an increase in this body language gesture, be mindful of what’s causing it. While it may be a signal that he’s pleased with the negotiation occurrences, it could also be a signal of annoyance.
Image Matching and Body Language
Another signal to observe is the matching of body language gestures to the words spoken. As an example, if the opposite negotiator says, “I think I can accept your point,” while doing so through clenched teeth, the clenched teeth is a sign that he’s not entirely aboard with your offer. You might consider allowing the gesture to go unchallenged. But it’s something to be mindful of because you may have to address it at another point in the negotiation. When you sense it needing a challenge, challenge it.
Body Language To Observe
While some body language signals may be insignificant, you must raise your consciousness level when the following occurs.
Screaming and Shouting
Some negotiators scream as a way to enhance the body language gesture that accompanies that action (e.g., literally sitting on their hands, maintaining a poker face, etc.). While shouting during a negotiation can be a sign of frustration, it’s the escalation level that should draw your attention.
In some situations, a negotiator may attempt to use his heightened voice tonality for intimidation. Or he may try to use it as a distraction to divert your attention from what you’re discussing. That’s why you must be cautious about how you address his actions. If you scream in return, you run the risk of increasing tensions. If you do nothing, it may have a calming effect or one that encourages your counterpart to continue his antics.
Increasing Eye Avoidance
An increasing eye avoidance should alert a negotiator to some form of distraction. There might be differing reasons for this display.
1. The cause for avoidance may stem from an inner emotion, such as fear of the proceedings.
2. There might be an inner sense of shame about what the other negotiator is thinking or what he’ll do, or must do, that’s displeasing him.
Don’t let this gesture evade your perception. Doing so could be very costly to your negotiation efforts.
Someone once said a negotiator’s Adam’s apple serves no purpose. To which I replied, it does in a negotiation. The action’s value occurs by observing the times at which a negotiator’s swallowing causes it to move. The movement of one’s Adam’s apple caused by constant swallowing is another usually overlooked sign that a negotiator is experiencing stress.
This body language gesture may be a distraction when the other negotiator attempts to signal a false feeling of stress when one doesn’t exist. In essence, he’d be using the gesture as a ploy. If you suspect that’s the case, again, determine the time to call him out about your observation. If you sense he’s genuinely unaware of his action, you may have a deeper problem of which to explore.
Psychologists and peak performers call it “flow” – the state of mind you’re in when you’re fully mentally engaged in an activity. In that state, you make better decisions because you’re more focused on what’s occurring. But during a negotiation, your ‘flow’ can become distracted. A good negotiator affects the distraction maneuver as part of his strategy. And that’s why you must know how to challenge him, even when his attempts at disruption are through his body language.
Therefore, if you wish to increase your negotiation opportunities and reduce the hampering of your efforts due to a negotiator’s silent body language signals, utilize the insights mentioned. They’ll boost your negotiation efforts. Plus, you’ll be more astute about someone’s body language actions. 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
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