Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations by Greg Williams


Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations by Greg Williams

Read the summary below and get the key insights in just 10 minutes!



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Greg Williams, an expert on negotiations, shows how to use body language as an arbitration tool. Because 90% of communication is nonverbal, an ability to read and interpret body language offers an advantage. When you detect a conflict between people’s words and movement or actions, trust their body language because, Williams teaches, the body doesn’t lie. He explains “microexpressions” and tells you how to identify psychological blocks, “triggers” and “hot buttons.” His instructions will help any negotiator and have particular relevance for women and others who may have difficulty negotiating salary demands. getAbstract recommends Williams’s insightful lesson in interpreting body language to anyone negotiating anything.


In this summary, you will learn

  • How mastering the art of reading body language can make you a more effective negotiator,
  • How to detect and interpret “microexpressions,”
  • What personality types and operating styles to look for in negotiators, and
  • How various negotiating tactics work.


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Nonverbal Communication

Pay attention to words and body language. If a person’s words contradict his or her body language, “believe” the body language, because “the body does not lie.”

For example, director of purchasing Sharma Modi’s skill in reading body language provided an edge in negotiating with vendor Bill Walters. When Walters asked Modi to invest in his products, Walters shifted in his seat and sweated. His hands trembled. He said he had “plenty of business,” but his body language said otherwise. Modi pitched a lowball offer, and Walters took it.

Head movements – and eye movements in particular – reveal a person’s thought processes. Looking to the left indicates recalling information. Looking up and left indicates a visual recall; looking straight to the left indicates an auditory recall; and looking down and left indicates recalling an internal conversation. Looking to the right indicates creation. Looking up and right indicates visual creation, while looking straight to the right indicates an auditory creation. Looking right and down indicates something kinesthetic, or linked to feelings.

Don’t automatically assume that a person with crossed arms is unreceptive. Crossed arms linked with another movement – such as crossing one leg over the other – may indicate close-mindedness. Women tend to cross their arms more than men.

Facing the palms of the hands upward shows openness and receptiveness. Shaking someone’s hand by putting your hand on top of his or hers shows dominance. A hard handshake could be a show of aggressiveness or overcompensation for weakness.

How people move their legs, ankles and feet offer important clues. People who are uncomfortable jiggle their legs. Crossed legs could indicate a high or a low level of comfort with you. Analyze crossed legs in conjunction with other body language. If you and your counterpart have opposite legs crossed, you are out of sync. The reverse is also true. Feet pointed straight at you mean that your counterpart feels on “even ground.” Position yourself so your feet align with your counterpart. If he or she follows your foot patterns, you’re in alignment. And if not, you are not.


“Microexpressions last for no more than a second…the time it takes to blink an eye.” They offer quick pulses of the body’s ultimate truth. Microexpressions can be a form of protection, as when you unconsciously wrinkle your nose in disgust if something smells rotten.

Carla lost $45,000 in a salary negotiation because she didn’t understand microexpressions. She was happy to be interviewing with Kyle for her dream job. Kyle told Carla she would be perfect for the position, and asked for her salary requirement. “I’d like $60,000 a year,” Carla said. Kyle’s eyes grew wide, which Carla misinterpreted as shock, so she said her salary was negotiable. Kyle was going to offer her $100,000. He pretended to think and offered Carla $55,000, which she accepted. If she had noticed his expression change, Carla should have asked Kyle probing questions and negotiated from there.

Look for seven universal microexpressions: “fear, anger, disgust, surprise, contempt, sadness and happiness.” People project fear in instant microexpressions by outwardly displaying wide-open eyes, raised eyebrows, stretched lips or an open mouth. Anger reveals itself through eyebrows that are down and together, pursed lips and flaring nostrils. A raised upper lip or wrinkled nose indicates disgust. Surprise features raised eyebrows, wide eyes and an open mouth. Contempt happens quickly, usually with one corner of the lip curled into a sneer. Downcast or unfocused eyes suggest sadness. Happy people have “wide eyes, elevated cheeks” and a smile.

Confirm your suspicions about the meaning of a microexpression by asking for clarification. In the above situation, Carla misinterpreted Kyle’s surprise, and hadn’t done her homework: The appropriate salary range for the position at stake was $75,000 to $125,000. If Kyle had offered the ceiling of $125,000, Carla could have feigned sadness to gain an even higher counteroffer. Or she could have said nothing. “Silence often has a great impact.”


Priming means “preparing for the emotional game” of negotiations. Priming involves preparing yourself, your opponent, the physical environment, and even those who are involved in the negotiation but not present. Prime yourself by knowing your motivations, strengths, weaknesses and current mood. Priming your opponents becomes easier the more you know about them. Answer these priming questions:

  • What triggers will irritate or calm your opponent?
  • How can you use body language to emphasize or soften your words?
  • How can you use pressure to bring your negotiator down or up?
  • Will you project a “nice guy” or “harsh” image?

Offer food and drink to disarm your opponent. To determine whether the person present can make a decision, present an appealing, time-limited offer or counteroffer. Prime the physical environment. Make the setting feel more luxurious by adding fresh flowers in a crystal vase or by using real coffee mugs instead of paper cups. Prime your space by making it colder or hotter than usual so that your opponent is uncomfortable.

“Brain Games”

Your emotional state and psychological blocks – such as fear, anger or surprise – affect negotiations. For example, fear of not getting a contract for someone’s business can lead you to discount your fee. Surprise, contempt and sadness can inhibit negotiations. Know your psychological blocks, and prepare to work around them. Pride and paranoia are major pitfalls. If you’re stressed, postpone negotiations. Lack of sleep before a negotiation makes you prone to mistakes.

Personality Types, “Triggers” and “Hot Buttons”

Negotiators sort into four different personality types, and each has a specific negotiation style:

  1. “Coordinators” are calm and fun loving. They are very organized, creative and highly motivated.
  2. “Investigators” rely on knowledge and perceptions over intuition. They can be secretive and cautious before trusting someone.
  3. “Trendsetters” are outgoing, social and energetic. They enjoy networking, adapt to situations and easily influence others.
  4. “Relaters” are honest, self-motivated and detail-oriented. They’re good problem solvers, and they honor integrity.

Effective negotiators shift between personality types depending on the situation. Observe your counterparts’ body language and assess their emotional “triggers” to see which personality type dominates. Each type reacts differently to triggers. Effective use of a trigger can put an opposing negotiator into a mind-set that gives you an edge.

Triggers work differently with different types of negotiators. For example, a coordinator and an investigator respond differently to the trigger of “urgency.” Because coordinators are calm and flexible, a deadline spurs them to action. An investigator needs concrete evidence before making a decision, so urgency isn’t effective. A coordinator will smile or respond positively if you say, “This is going to be a great experience today. Wouldn’t you agree?” An investigator may cross his or her arms or act suspicious.

Triggers differ from hot buttons, though a trigger may spark a hot button and enable you to manipulate your counterpart. Hot buttons can cause a loss of control. Know your opponent’s motivation, and tailor your triggers accordingly. Observe your counterparts closely to learn their triggers and hot buttons, and be aware that they are observing you as well.

To identify your triggers and hot buttons, ask:

  • Do you expect to get the possible deal?
  • Do you believe all negotiations have a clear winner and loser?
  • Do you immediately react to the assumptions others make about you based on your appearance or demeanor?
  • Will being treated with dismissiveness or condescension cause you to fight back?
  • Do you get mad when people interrupt you, or when you feel that some person or process is wasting your time, or when you must wait on hold for too long?

Disrupt your opponents by acting in a manner opposite to what they expect. When you catch an opponent off guard, use one of his or her triggers to cause more confusion.


Nodes are categories of negotiation personality styles. Look for four styles: “hard, easy, closed and open.” “A hard negotiator says, ‘I’ll tell you my best offer. Take it or leave it’.” Hard negotiators don’t care about an opponent’s needs, and view a negotiation as win or lose. Easy negotiators aim to please and don’t hide anything. Closed negotiators demand proof that you’re not trying to take advantage of them. Open negotiators trust in and believe the best of their opponents. Most people prefer negotiating with someone operating in their own node.

Identify your opponent’s node by observing his or her body language. Build rapport by mimicking your opponent’s body language. A hard negotiator may become suspicious when you attempt to build rapport. Coax a closed personality to open up by using calming words and body language. A negotiator with an easy node will be more receptive and open to establishing a good relationship. Building rapport makes a negotiation easier, except with a hard negotiator. Effective negotiators vary their nodes during negotiation to adapt to the situation at hand.


Worthy negotiators challenge their counterparts to think differently. To hold someone’s interest, make sure you offer more services (“Oh…wait, there’s more”) or point out a shortcoming in the current offering. But, you must persuade your opponents before you can influence them. Persuasion and subsequent influence generally occur when you are: 1) teaching a new way of thinking, 2) challenging existing thinking, or 3) modeling behavior that leads to success.

A pair of negotiators can use the good cop/bad cop technique. The bad cop wants the suspect to adopt a certain behavior, like confessing to a crime. The good cop encourages the suspect and may offer food and drink. Good negotiators recognize the good cop/bad cop technique, even when one person is using it by enacting both behaviors. Use your influence as long as you can during a negotiation.

Other tactics include “social proof, optics, scarcity and urgency.” Testimonials from satisfied clients provide social proof. Statistics that you use with social proof can bolster your credibility and can help clear a roadblock. Use statistics toward the end of a negotiation. Testimonials are verifiable comments or evidence, like videos. The more specific your testimonials are to your negotiation, the better.

Optics refer to your visual presentation, such as how you dress, the car you drive, your projected demeanor, and the like. Scarcity and urgency can backfire. Scarcity encourages customers to “buy now.” Typically, salespeople will say they have only a few units left. Urgency also encourages customers to buy now, by saying, for example, “The offer expires at midnight.” Don’t overuse these strategies.

If you negotiate with a group, watch each negotiator’s body language to determine who is the leader. Hide your lead person by having someone else act as lead.[/text_block]

About the Author

[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_font=”Raleway”]Greg Williams is a speaker and body language authority.[/text_block]
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