Negotiation Tip of the Week
“Always pay attention to body language. It’s the secret purveyor of hidden thoughts.” – Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert
“How To Win More negotiations – Understand The Shoulder Shrug”
Shrugging shoulders – The question was asked of him, “why should we lower our price?” He shrugged his shoulders, took a moment to reflect on the question, and then offered several reasons why the price should be reduced. Little did he know, his shoulder shrug exposed the fact that initially, he didn’t have an answer to the question. Others picked that up and he lost credibility.
When negotiating, you should possess a heightened sense of awareness about the signals you send via your body language. You should also have a heightened sense of awareness of the other negotiator’s body language. That’s because body language displays true feelings. While some very good negotiators know how to convey false emotions through their body language, through their attempt to convey such emotions, their body tries to compensate for the inequity the body is experiencing. The shrugging of the shoulders is one form of display that the body conveys such sentiments.
What shoulder shrugging indicates:
The shrugging of the shoulders during a negotiation can imply different meanings depending on what occurred earlier in the negotiation, the level of intensity of what’s currently being discussed, and the mental frailty of the negotiator displaying the gesture. It can mean:
- What else do you want from me?
- I don’t really know the answer to that?
- I don’t care?
- I feel threatened!
- I’m indecisive.
- I’m thinking but I don’t know what to say.
- I’m experiencing some form of pressure.
- I disagree with you.
- I have disdain for what’s being discussed.
- I despise you.
To more accurately note the intent of the meaning, observe what occurred prior to the shoulder shrugging gesture. Also, note the length of time the shoulders stay in that position; that will allow you a glimpse into the degree the expression is being internalized. You can also gain additional insight into its meaning by noting other body language gestures that accompany the shrug(s). As an example:
- Mouth agape with head leaning forward is more of a display of not backing down. While head leaning back can indicate a reluctance to pursue the point being discussed much further.
- Ponding of the fist indicates defensiveness with the possibility of becoming aggressive.
- Sighing while displaying the shoulder shrug is a sign of exasperation. The level of exasperation is amplified when hands are extended in a palms-up or palms-down gesture.
When reading body language, you need to remember that the body always seeks to be in a state of comfort. When that state is violated the body displays its lack of comfort in an attempt to retrieve the state of comfort that it seeks. It’s during the times when the body is displaying such gestures that you need to be very attentive. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of what’s occurring in the other negotiator’s mind by doing so. Depending on your negotiation strategy, you can allow the opposing negotiator to emotionally flutter in discomfort or throw him a lifeline to assuage his discomfort.
In your future negotiations, if you become more aware of body language signals and the shoulder shrug in particular, you’ll be able to negotiate from a stronger position … and everything will be right with the world.
What are your takeaways? I’d really like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com
Remember, you’re always negotiating.