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What your eyebrows are ‘communicating’ to other people

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.

(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)

Upper body


The forehead responds to the major movements of the eyes. A quizzical or studious look causes the skin on the forehead to wrinkle or crease as the eyes express dismay or perhaps a hyperfocus on something of interest.

A wrinkled forehead caused by raised or lowered eyebrows, with an expression of surprise, indicates dismay or scepticism relative to what is being said or done.

Perspiration on the forehead is often a sign of nervousness, arousal, inner energy, exhaustion, or heat. Perspiration in cool or cold temperatures may indicate fear. Wiping perspiration away from the forehead may be a sign of relief or fear.

A knotted or tense forehead may indicate general tension, preoccupation, anxiety, determination, or aggression. The possible diverse meanings of particular nonverbal cues can be determined by the other accompanying body language of the eyes, face, and posture.

A relaxed forehead and eyebrows may indicate general calmness and self-assurance.


Eyebrows, the highly visible and expressive link between the eyes and forehead, also have their “say.” Lowered eyebrows may indicate mistrust, disapproval, disappointment, annoyance, anger, or aggression. Subtle differences of meaning are indicated by the intensity and expression of the eyes and face.

Raised eyebrows can be responsive or reactive, expressing openness, delight, dismay, surprise, or relief. Raised eyebrows also signal attention or willingness to speak.

Raised eyebrows widen the eyes, making you more energetically present, visible, and available. A single raised eyebrow denotes a quizzical look of superiority enquiring whether the facts or opinions expressed are relevant, truthful, or valid. A single eyebrow raised toward an individual in a group can also express an amused, conspiratorial camaraderie. When the eyebrows are knitted together, they show focus and concentration.

The eyebrows knotted together and the forehead lifted indicates alertness or vigilance. Eyebrows quickly raised and lowered are a silent recognition or greeting. Slow or exaggerated raising of the brows shows incredulity, scepticism, or disbelief.

Nosepicking nose

If the nose is pushed upward by the raising of the top lip, this has the effect of wrinkling the nose while flaring open the nostrils. This sign of displeasure says “something isn’t right here; something stinks.” Sniffing can also be a form of nose-wrinkling.

Gently rubbing or pinching the nostrils between thumb and forefinger, and touching the nose in general, especially the tip, expresses reluctance, resistance, or a feeling that something is “off” or disagreeable.

When someone “peers down his or her nose” at the other person, it generally indicates veiled contempt or distaste, a sense of one’s own superiority, and the other’s inferiority. A similar gesture of perching one’s glasses low down on the nose and peering at the other person above the top rims also indicates condescension and a sense of being right or superior.

Flared nostrils allow more oxygen and energy into the brain and body. This gesture is an instinctive response to a sense of potential threat or danger, or a prelude to the fear or anger adrenaline rush of a fight-or-flight response. Recognise that the person making this gesture may be in a hyper-vigilant state of wariness, mistrust, anger or fear. This can signal a need for you to be a calm or soothing presence, as any signs of pushiness or aggression will only increase the other’s perception of danger, making him or her less amenable to reasonable dialogue and more likely to react with impulsive emotion.


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