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The smallest gesture or posture conveys a message to your negotiating adversary, so whatever you do; don’t underestimate the power of body language and how it can affect your powers of negotiation.

We’re all looking to get the best deal possible, so how can you make sure that you’ve got the upper hand? Does learning how to interpret body language really give you an advantage in the world of negotiation.

First Impressions

First impressions are often crucial, no matter what the negotiating situation those first 30 seconds can be make or break. Come across as too strong and your adversary may see you as a bully or over-confident, come across as too weak, and they could write you off before you have even begun.

A classic way of initially gaining the control on the first encounter is to give a good, firm, assertive handshake. This implies that you are trustworthy and not a push over. Don’t go too overboard though, trying to crush your new acquaintance’s fingers in a vice-like grip shows you may be trying a bit too hard and can definitely do more harm than good.

A firm handshake is often key to a good first impression

As is true in the animal kingdom, the best way to appear confident even if you’re not is to make yourself big. Straightening your back and shoulders and raising your chin a little, will give the impression that you’re in control without seeming over-confident.

Mimicking your partner

In all social and business situations, we are constantly assessing the trustworthiness of those around us. If we are feeling comfortable, our bodies will begin to sub-consciously mimic the body language of those we feel we can trust or rely on.

In negotiation, mimicking your partner’s body language can imply that you are beginning to trust each other and are on the same page. Forming the foundations of a mutually beneficial relationship where you can work together to get the best deal for both parties.

Conversely, if you do the opposite of your counterpart, crossing your arms and legs when they are using open body language for example. This can be interpreted as argumentative and uncooperative, not a good start for any type of discussion.

Being receptive

When entering into your negotiations, if you appear receptive to your partner it can give the whole process a positive boost. People are more likely to trust you if you seem approachable and therefore to negotiate more freely.

We interpret receptiveness through open body language, arms and legs uncrossed, a relaxed posture and hands either on the table in front of you or relaxed on your lap.

Unreceptive negotiators often clench their jaws, sit right back in their chairs and have their hands in front of their mouths. All things to avoid if you want to get the best out of your meeting.

Eye contact

Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of body language. From the very first second that we meet someone, their eye contact, or lack thereof can speak volumes about their personality and intentions.

Getting the balance right however is crucial. Too much eye contact during a meeting implies that you are more interested in the person speaking than in what is being said, too little and you could be seen as evasive, untrustworthy or even bored.

Maintaining eye contact can be crucial in getting your point across


That concludes our quick look into body language and how it affects real life negotiations. Why not take some of the tips we’ve suggested and apply them in the near future to your own situations and experiences?

Sally Reynolds is a leadership training specialist at Creativedge. She has given seminars across the UK where based on the queries a list of body language cues was created that help to improve success rate of negotiations and employee communications. These best practices are many times common sense, however due to stressful and challenging situations managers still forgot to “use” them, therefore Creativedge helps to internalize the idea and prepare the businessman to consciously use their body language for successful outcomes.