“Reading Body Language – How To Make Better Decisions When Negotiating” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“Make better decisions by getting better information. And to get better information, read body language to uncover hidden information.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Reading Body Language – How To

Make Better Decisions When Negotiating”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

Do you read body language to make better decisions when negotiating? It had nothing to do with body language, he thought. Because he said, “Okay. I’ll enjoy my visit to the doctor’s office,” and mused to himself, to the degree anyone enjoys such visits. With that, he turned and headed out the door. But, as he did, he thought to himself; there was something in her body language that said he’d miscommunicated.

He was not sure if he had misinterpreted what he heard. But he knew about reading body language, and something was off. They were not negotiating, but they were exchanging information. And that information, he knew, could be used when they were negotiating.

At times, do you pick up subtle signals indicating you may be sensing something? That is a rhetorical question. Because the answer is, yes, you do. Even if you are unaware when the sensation occurs, you have observed someone’s body language gesture that causes you to pause.

Some registration of body language gestures occurs subliminally. And that is the source of your sensation.

You can increase your awareness of body language gestures to make observing them more prominent. And that will lead you to make better decisions when negotiating. In addition, accurately reading body language will boost your negotiation outcomes and all facets of your life.  

What Is Body Language/Nonverbal Gestures

Body language gestures are utterances and movements that accompany someone’s words as they speak. It is also the response displayed to a statement that someone else makes, which may be nonverbal. The gesture can be audible, such as a grunt, or shown through a particular body movement.

The point to remember is, some stimulus occurs that causes someone to make particular body language gestures when they do so. The gesture displayed, at that time, is what gives clues to what that person is thinking. And people never emit gestures without some form of stimulus. And that is true even when they are not aware of why they committed an action.

What Body Language To Observe

When you are negotiating, observe the body language response to statements and questions. In particular, notice how someone uses their hands, feet, and head gestures when they make statements or ask questions. Such insights announce the degree someone is committed to what they say or what someone else says. 


In such situations, take note of how close someone keeps their hands to their body. Close hands to the body may indicate that person wants to protect themselves. And, just because someone’s hands are away from their body does not mean they are not trying to hide something. There are other hand signals to note that may also indicate concealment.

The example to note about someone keeping their hands away from their body is the hands up with palms exposed. The immediate thought you may have is, that person is open – he is honest. And yet, if you see that display and elbows accompany it clutched close to the body, that person’s body language may be signaling the conflict he has about his statement.   


Someone’s foot movement can also indicate their comfort level with a statement they make or one from someone else. For example, if someone made a statement and stepped backward at its conclusion, they may be attempting to distance themselves from the message. Why? Because they may know it is not truthful. Foot movement while sitting can also be a sign of nervous tension.

Head Gestures

Head gestures are another great source to observe to discern someone’s inner thoughts. When people are committed to their statement, they tend to lean forward. The opposite is true when they lack commitment. And when there is no head movement or very little of it, they are signaling that they may be neutral, impartial.

If you observe any of the gestures mentioned when you are negotiating, consider asking yourself why someone made a move when they did. What caused it? And from what may this person be attempting to protect themselves. Questioning yourself about such movements will allow you to make better decisions when you are negotiating.

How To Validate What You Observe

Okay. You have sensed movement, but you are not sure of what it indicates. It is time to validate what you saw. To do that, paraphrase the question you asked that stimulated the body language you witnessed. Then, observe if you see the same signal that you sensed prior. You will be validating what you perceived and identifying the stimulus that caused the gesture. You can also act like you did not hear the statement or question to get someone to repeat it. The point is, you want to note if that person emits the same gesture with the information in question. If they do or do not, it will serve as confirmation about what you sensed.  

Employing Body Language When Negotiating

So, now that you have more insight into what to observe about someone’s body language, how might you apply it when negotiating? Consider:

Using Silence – Using silence is an excellent way to get someone to make additional gestures. It can also be your way of signaling that an offer does not enthrall you.

Leaning Forward/Backward – You might consider leaning forward to display your commitment to an offer you have extended and backward when the other negotiator has made one that you do not like.

Head Movement – Consider nodding your head to encourage the other negotiator to continue upon the path you wish and shaking it from side to side to discourage him. He will pick up on the nonverbal signals about your degree of satisfaction or lack of it about what he is saying.


There are numerous body language signals transmitted when you are negotiating. And some of those signals are acted upon unconsciously. Thus, by acquiring or enhancing your skill to read body language more efficiently, you will make better decisions when you are negotiating. 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/blog

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