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Reading Body Language To Negotiate Based on Wants Versus Needs

» Introduction
When you negotiate, you can get whatever you want, if you give the other person what she needs. At first, this may appear to be profound, but the accomplishment of delivering what the other negotiator needs becomes the crux of the problem.
» Step 1
Consider this; the other negotiator has set the stage for what she wants. She states her wants in no uncertain terms. Yet, as you negotiate, you find that what she says she wants may not be exactly what she needs. How then, you might ask, can you really get enough inside information about someone’s wants versus their real needs?

If you’re unsure, but suspect you’re not really hearing the ‘real’ need or explanation for why someone wants the stated outcome of the negotiation, observe their body language more intently during the negotiation. In particular, pay attention to the following nonverbal clues …

1. Facial Features: Take note of how the person with whom you’re negotiating alters his facial features during the negotiation. When you restate his wants, alter their position by giving a different perspective of your perception. As you narrate your perception of his wants, look for smiles, widening of the eyes, and other ‘open’ gestures to indicate acceptance of your assumptions. If you suggest an alternative to what the other negotiator wants and he displays one of these characteristics, more than likely, he will accept your replacement of his stated wants with your suggested replacement of his needs. On the other hand, if his facial features turn into a scowl, his forehead becomes wrinkled, or his eyes become narrower, you can assume your stated perception of his wants have not been well received. In order to validate your interpretation of his actions, ask follow up questions to be sure your assumption is accurate.

2. Listening: Pay close attention to how the other negotiator listens to your perspective. As you restate your position, observe if she leans forward, becomes more engaging, or quickens her pace. If you note any of these characteristics, you can assume your perspective is being judged and perceived favorably. That being the case, get agreement by asking the other negotiator if you’re on the right track and continue to alter the negotiation to your position. If on the other hand you observe the other negotiator sitting back, slowing the pace of her responses, drumming her fingers on the table, or displaying any other type of ‘closed’ gestures, you’ll have insight into her lack of acceptance to your perspective, based on those nonverbal gestures. At that point, seek clarification to the stated wants of your negotiation partner and pay close attention for any alterations that have been made to her prior position. In particular, observe the alterations to note if they’ve changed to be in or away from the direction of your position.

3. Observing of the feet: The feet of the person with whom you’re negotiating can give you greatest insight into their demeanor, even more so than their facial features. In his book, “What Every Body Is Saying”, ex FBI agent Joe Navarro states, the feet give the greatest insight into what a person is truly contemplating. The reason being, we are hard wired from our ancestry days to freeze, take flight, or fight when we perceive danger, or something that displeases us. Among the many excellent nonverbal clues upon which he writes, Joe states that ‘happy feet’ will tend to wiggle or bounce with joy, while someone’s feet that wishes to evade you will display a demeanor that is poised to put distance between you and them.

We can thus use information garnered from the feet of the person that we’re negotiating with to gain additional information about their thoughts. If, as Joe states, they have ‘happy feet’ that signals more of an acceptance to our perception of their wants compared to their displeasure. Therefore, once you receive this nonverbal information, you know you can continue on the track you’re on.

When negotiating, if you are astute, you can acquire a lot of information based on nonverbal clues you observe. To do so takes a little dedication on your part and a commitment to become better at accurately interpreting nonverbal signals. When you make the commitment to become better at interpreting nonverbal information, you’ll increase your negotiation skills and the rewards for doing so will be tremendous … and everything will be right with the world.


The Negotiation Lessons are …

• When you’re at the negotiation table, perk up! Pay close attention to the gestures made by those with whom you negotiate. By doing so, you’ll gain additional insight into the thoughts the other negotiator is harboring.

• If you’re ever unsure as to the meaning of a gesture you sense, and you feel the gesture is worth clarifying, ask the other person what the gesture meant. In order to be right about your perception, you have to know you’re ‘reading’ someone correctly. Don’t be graveyard silent. If there’s importance attached to the nonverbal display, you need to know you’re interpreting it correctly, in order to be sure you’re on the right track.

• As an exercise, observe the feet of people when they’re in ‘happy mode’ versus ‘distress mode’. Then, when you’re negotiating remember what you’ve learned from your observation. You’ll instantly realize the value of your new and increasing knowledge.

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