What body language signals do you observe when observing the body language of others and how do you use that information in your negotiations (you’re always negotiating)?
A client and I entered a restaurant. The hostess approached and stated that we’d be seated within a few minutes. My associate said she was going to the ladies room and suggested I be seated if the hostess had a table available before she returned. When the hostess reappeared, she asked while displaying wide-eyes, where is she? I took note of her wide-eyes (see below) and replied that my associate had gone to the ladies room. Then, I told her that I was ready to be seated if a table was ready. She paused for a few seconds and said, OK. I wondered what had just occurred per the body language I’d observed but I’d already gleaned insight that allowed me to start forming opinions. I sought additional body language gestures to confirm my thoughts. What do you think occurred in the hostess’ mind?
When you’re negotiating, the observance of the slightest body language gesture can give you great insight per a shift in the mind of the other negotiator.
Wide-Eyes: When you observe someone displaying a wide-eyed expression it will be due to a heightened sense of awareness/alertness. This can stem from the perception that something’s not right as that person perceives it to be, which is why they’re now looking at the situation through widened eyes; they’re attempting to take in more of the environment.
Once you detect a wide-eyed gesture, observe what follows. Does the person begin to look in different directions over a short period of time? If so, they’re looking for answers. Does the individual exhibit an altered speech pattern from what was shown prior (i.e. slower, faster) to the wide-eyed expression? This can also be displayed in the form of someone appearing to be murmuring to themselves. If so, they’re attempting to make sense of what they’re experiencing by using the words they utter to assess and possibly perform a self-justification for the action they’re in the process of engaging in.
In the situation with the hostess, I later discovered that she was not supposed to seat a party that was incomplete (i.e. all members present). The hostess told me later that she’d only been working at the establishment for a month and she didn’t want to violate the ‘incomplete party’ rule. What I glimpsed in her wide-eyed expression was momentary fear. The hesitation I noted was caused by her being reflective per my client going to the ladies room and the thought that she should be back shortly, thus not ‘really’ violating the policy. My perception was confirmed when I told her what I observed via her body language gestures and stated what I just indicated.
You’ve more than likely heard the expression, “’I went into that situation with my eyes wide open.” It implies that you were very alert to the occurrences of the environment you were in.
During your negotiations, be very observant to body language signals that give words different or additional meanings from what’s being conveyed. Wide-eyed and other body language signals can be cues that alert you to an altered thought process. If you detect that occurrence you’ll also be aware that a mental shift has occurred in the opposing negotiator. Such awareness will lead you to more successful negotiation outcomes … and everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!