“Leaders Top Body Language Mistakes Made In Negotiations And How To Increase Success” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Like a puzzle, someone’s unknown thoughts can hide pieces of their identity. Reading their body language can reveal that void, exposing the picture of who they are.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Leaders Top Body Language Mistakes Made In Negotiations And How To Increase Success”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Leaders, are you making any of the following body language mistakes during negotiations? Your body language is vital as a leader because it impacts a negotiation.

How you hold yourself, facial expressions, and gestures can send powerful messages to those around you. By paying attention to body language, you can communicate more effectively and increase your chances of successful outcomes with those you negotiate.

 The following are some body language signs leaders should observe and avoid, unless it is intentional, to increase their success.

Eye Contact

Eye contact can be a fundamental aspect of effective communication in negotiations. It can signal confidence, sincerity, and engagement. Leaders failing to maintain eye contact during negotiations can signal disinterest or lack of appreciation.

The time for leaders to use eye avoidance is when they wish to convey a mild demeanor toward the discussion. They can also affect a façade of humility or meekness by avoiding eye contact.

To avoid the eye contact dilemma, maintain appropriate eye contact during a negotiation, and be careful not to stare too intently. That can make a leader appear aggressive.

Crossing Arms

Crossing arms is a gesture that can convey defensiveness, a need to protect one’s thoughts or closed-mindedness. During negotiations, when leaders cross their arms, it can signal that they are not open to hearing the other person’s perspective.

To avoid this mistake, leaders should keep their arms open and relaxed during negotiations unless they intend to signal that they are steadfast against an offer. Thus, if a leader does not plan for someone to misconstrue their body language, they should be mindful of their crossed arms. The body, through its displays, leaks signals. And when a leader crosses their arms unintentionally, they can negatively impact their negotiation position. 


A person’s body always seeks a state of comfort. Fidgeting is one outward display of the body’s attempt to return to that state. Fidgeting, straightening one’s clothes, caressing their hair, or needlessly touching objects during negotiation are body language signs of nervousness. At a minimum, a leader emitting such actions signals discomfort.

When leaders fidget or play with objects, it can distract from the conversation. It can also make other negotiation participants feel uneasy about the topic of discussion.

To avoid this fault, leaders should practice good posture and maintain calm unless they intentionally wish to convey a distressing message. And during the negotiation, they should avoid handling objects that do not require a leader’s touch.


Standing too close to someone during negotiations can be intimidating or uncomfortable when negotiating face-to-face. It can communicate aggression or a lack of respect for personal space. It can also magnify the perceived distance between leaders per their discussion. And standing too far away can be perceived as disinterest.

During online visual negotiations, leaders should be mindful of their face-to-camera proximity. Like in face-to-face talks, the perception of distance conveys meanings in online meetings too. 

To tame the proximity challenge, leaders should maintain a comfortable distance based on the norms of the negotiators and be aware of the nonverbal message their proximity to someone sends – always respect people’s personal space.


Touching someone can be powerful in negotiations. It can help build rapport and establish trust. It can also signal too much familiarity if perceived to be inappropriate.

On the other hand, when leaders avoid touching during a negotiation, it can signal a lack of connection or trust. Regardless, leaders must be mindful of when and where they touch someone in today’s environment.

To address this dilemma, leaders should be mindful of what appropriate touching is for those with whom they interact. Even a handshake or a pat on the back can be perceived as inappropriate if not done correctly. Awareness of cultural norms can lend insights into what is and is not appropriate.

Speaking Pace

While the speed at which a leader speaks does not fall directly under body language, their speech rate conveys sentiments about how they feel while discussing negotiation situations. Speaking too fast or slow can indicate nervousness or a lack of confidence. It can also make it difficult for the other party to follow the conversation.

To control this predicament, leaders should speak at a pace comfortable for the person they are engaging. Doing so will allow the other party to subliminally understand a leader’s issues. Speaking slower when stressing a point or talking faster to exhibit angst is an excellent way to employ this tactic.

Hand Gestures

For a moment, gesture with your hand as though you were summoning someone to come closer. Now, use a hand gesture for that person to stop. With your first gesture, your palm was most likely up and facing you. In the second motion, you most likely raised your hand with your palm facing outward.  

Hand gestures can be a powerful tool for leaders. It aids their communication by adding additional insight into their words. So, to avoid lessening the impact of a message, leaders should be sure their hand gestures match their words. For example, do not use gestures that indicate stop when comments are stating to move closer.


Body language is an essential aspect of communication for leaders. If leaders use their body language right, it can help them avoid mistakes caused by errant body language signals.

Thus, by paying attention to their body language and those around them, leaders can increase their negotiation abilities, raising their chances for greater success. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://megaphone.link/CSN6318246585

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

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