Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!
In the third section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, we discuss and analyse the many different nonverbal, “body language” signals others give us during a negotiation, as well as how our bodies are communicating with the other party. Over the next few weeks we will recommend ways of dealing with each type of negotiator.
(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)
Background to nonverbal communication
For over 10 million years humans have evolved and survived by adapting to their changing environments. A key concept in Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is “survival of the fittest.” At the most basic level, “fittest” does mean being fit, healthy, and in shape. Exercising, being strong and tough, as well as eating right and taking care of your body, increases your chances of survival and longevity. Alligators, crocodiles, and sharks have survived for millions of years because they are the “fittest” species in their domains. But the “fitness” for survival Darwin described also includes adaptability, the capacity to “fit” into an evolving, changing environment. The adaptable cockroach is also millions of years old. But adaptability also includes intelligence – a capacity to understand, respond, and change to meet the challenges of life over time. Man, the most intelligent animal, has not only survived, he has also come to dominate the natural world to a remarkable degree.
So, the person you are, and the person or people you are negotiating with, are the product of over 10 million years of intelligent adaptability that has fitted them to survive the daily business we call life.
Everything we do is an adaptation response intended to improve our chances to survive, succeed, find happiness etc. Even our efforts to appear and to be kind, courteous, caring, humane, gentle, polite, cultivated, and sophisticated serve these basic human drives. We may have evolved far beyond our raw-meat-eating forebears whose primary form of communication, besides grunts and other inarticulate sounds, was nonverbal. But that sophisticated veneer is only skin deep and, if we are pushed too hard, or if sudden danger or crisis appears, we instinctively revert to our primordial fight-or-flight responses.
So, regardless of our apparent sophistication, most of our communication is nonverbal, largely subconscious or unconscious, and utterly unsophisticated. A very small fraction of nonverbal communications are conscious and intentional. Conversely, the majority of our spoken words are consciously designed to communicate a specific message that may be true or false, or to hide something we don’t want to reveal.
In every negotiation, nonverbal cues communicate important information that the other party isn’t telling you in words, and that may even contradict what they are saying verbally. If you don’t understand body language, you will miss these important cues, and may be misled by spoken words designed to manipulate you.
Experts in body language have identified some 250,000 facial expressions which have specific meanings. No one can distinguish that many different expressions, but you can recognise enough basic gestures, cues, and expressions and their meanings to get the gist of what someone is “saying” nonverbally in the course of a conversation or a negotiation. Excellent books dedicated to understanding body language easily can be found through a simple Internet search.
Any particular gesture can have varied meanings that depend upon the context of the entire body language – posture, facial expressions, gestures of hands or arms, etc. – in which they are expressed. So, interpreting particular gestures requires the use of the intuition as well as the mind.
It’s worth noting that women tend to be far more sensitive and subtle in nonverbal communication, both in expressing it and understanding it. Their intuition is generally more developed than most men’s. Men often miss the subtleties of a woman’s eye messages, whereas most women can often read a man like a book.
What follows here is a brief “Cliff Notes” synopsis of the more frequently used body language cues, gestures, and signals. For convenience and order, we start with the top of the head and progress downward to the toes.