Nonverbal communication in negotiation
Nonverbal Communication in Negotiation
Communication is a key element of negotiation. Effective negotiation requires that participants effectively convey and interpret information. Participants in a negotiation will communicate information not only verbally but non-verbally through body language and gestures. By understanding how nonverbal communication works, a negotiator is better equipped to interpret the information other participants are leaking non-verbally while keeping secret those things that would inhibit his/her ability to negotiate.
Examples of Non-Verbal Communication in Negotiation
Non-Verbal "Anchoring": In a negotiation, a person can gain the advantage by verbally expressing his/or her position first. By anchoring your position, you establish the position from which the negotiation will proceed. In a like manner, one can anchor and gain advantage with non verbal (body language) ques.
- Personal Space: The person at the head of the table is the apparent symbol of power. Negotiators can repel this strategic advantage by positioning allies in the room to surround that individual.
- First Impression: Begin the negotiation with positive gestures and enthusiasm. Look the person in the eye with sincerity. If you cannot maintain eye contact, the other person might think you are hiding something or that you are insincere. Give a solid handshake.
Reading Non-Verbal Communication: Being able to read the non-verbal communication of another person can significantly aid in the communication process. By being aware of inconsistencies between a person's verbal and non-verbal communication and reconciling them, negotiators will be able to come to better resolutions. Examples of incongruity in body language include:
- Nervous Laugh: A laugh not matching the situation. This could be a sign of nervousness or discomfort. When this happens, it may be good to probe with questions to discover the person's true feelings.
- Positive words but negative body language: If someone asks their negotiation partner if they are annoyed and the person pounds their fist and responds sharply, what makes you think anything is bothering me?
- Hands raised in a clenched position: The person raising his/her hands in this position reveals frustration even when he/she is smiling. This is a signal that the person doing it may be holding back a negative attitude.
- If possible, it may be helpful for negotiation partners to spend time together in a comfortable setting outside of the negotiation room. Knowing how each partner non-verbally communicates outside of the negotiation setting will help negotiation partners to sense incongruity between verbal and non-verbal communication within the negotiation setting.
Conveying Receptivity The way negotiation partners position their bodies relative to each other may influence how receptive each is to the other person's message and ideas.
- Face and eyes: Receptive negotiators smile, make plenty of eye contact. This conveys the idea that there is more interest in the person than in what is being said. On the other hand, non-receptive negotiators make little to no eye contact. Their eyes may be squinted, jaw muscles clenched and head turned slightly away from the speaker
- Arms and hands: To show receptivity, negotiators should spread arms and open hands on table or relaxed on their lap. Negotiators show poor receptivity when their hands are clenched, crossed, positioned in front of their mouth, or rubbing the back of their neck.
- Legs and Feet: Receptive negotiators sit with legs together or one leg slightly in front of the other. When standing, they distribute weight evenly and place hands on their hips with their body tilted toward the speaker. Non-receptive negotiators stand with legs crossed, pointing away from the speaker.
- Torso: Receptive negotiators sit on the edge of their chair; unbutton their suit coat with their body tilted toward the speaker. Non-receptive negotiators may lean back in their chair and keep their suit coat buttoned.