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November 1, 2017

What Their Body Is Saying While Negotiating

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A negotiation begins before greetings or opening remarks – if you know what to look for. How each person carries his or her self, sits, and interacts with others can say more than all the words spoken during that meeting. Learning to read these signals gives insight into that person, information you can use to close the deal. From opened or closed postures to mimicry of motion, this negotiation training will show you how to bring that deal home.

Understanding Body Language

Albert Mehrabian, a renowned psychology professor at UCLA, concluded these three elements make up verbal communication:

  • Words
  • Voice tone
  • Nonverbal language

Mehrabian says each element accounts for a different percentage of the communication. Only 7% of what people say is verbal. Tone accounts for 38% of the meaning conveyed, and body language carries the other 55% of the message. The listener might say they accept what you’re telling them, but if their arms are crossed, they avoid eye contact and one leg is bouncing with impatience, their body language disagrees. Here are some of the ways the body transmits meaning.

Smiling

Smiling is a learned behavior. People smile because they’re being polite, because they’re nervous, or to mask uncertainty. A real smile goes all the way to the eyes, causing the corners to crinkle. If you suspect a smile is fake, ask for feedback. You shouldn’t fake smiling either, lest you appear untrustworthy.

Closed Body Language

During negotiations, if stakeholders cross their arms across their chest, it may indicate tension or resistance. It often means the person is not willing to be persuaded.

Fidgeting, Doodling or Slumping

At the beginning of your presentation, your audience was sitting up straight in their chairs with their eyes on you. If later you notice them moving restlessly in their chairs or shifting their focus to items on the table, they’re bored. Assess your delivery and find a way to reengage.

Mimicry

If you notice when you uncross your ankles, the person listening does the same, you know they feel a connection with what you’re saying. Nod to show agreement and you’ll notice they don’t just nod back, they actually feel agreement with what you’re saying. Mimicry is a natural behavior that improves negotiating success.

When reading body language, use common sense. Some people just have a hard time sitting still, others cross their arms when they’re cold. Look for groups of cues instead of just one at a time to read what your audience is feeling for more successful negotiations.

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