Negotiating with a client on transaction details can be a tricky proposition for those not trained in negotiation skills. Boning up on traditional deal making behavior can be helpful, as is learning to read up on body language cues.
Translating body language can be pretty straightforward, especially when people around you aren't trying to hide their feelings. Take a buyer in a strong negotiating position: she may choose to show disagreement about a proposed price without actually saying anything. In such a situation, her body language might include furrowing of eyebrows, pursing of lips, baring teeth, or touching the back of her neck. These are fairly common body language cues that can be easily discerned.
In contrast, a buyer with little negotiating power may seek to hide their distress. Here, body language cues might only be revealed through more subtle pacifying behaviors. The latter term includes those actions that have the effect of calming others down. Examples include leaning away, touching one’s face, hand rubbing, or playing with a necklace (for men, covering or stroking their necks). Even licking the lips or playing with hair may serve as a pacifying behavior. Other subtle body language cues that reveal distress or discomfort include the sudden interlocking of legs or ankles around the legs of a chair, eye blocking with the hands, and squinting.
Once you’re on the lookout for such cues, you’re likely to see them rather frequently. A colleague might touch her neck dimple (instead of her necklace) when asked about her career aspirations. This is a cue that more may be going on with her than you know about. Asking the right kind of follow-up questions might lead you to more information than you knew was there when the conversation began.
The caveat here however is that attempts to read body cues can be fraught with misinterpretation. For instance, a speaker who is folding his arms under questioning might be deemed defensive or guarded. However, he might simply be cold! Body language experts recommend watching for body cues in clusters, such as the speaker folding his arms, turning his body away from you and/or avoiding eye contact. If the nonverbal cues back each other up, you will be able to feel more confident in determining how the people around you are feeling.
Reading body behavior can save business people an enormous amount of time, especially for those seeking to decipher more ambiguous situations. A thorough understanding of body language can serve as a powerful tool for those seeking to deepen their interpersonal relationships.