“People may hear your words but they feel your body language”- John C Maxwell
You’ve done your due diligence on the business and prepared your position but you still have to meet and deal with the people. As we know these situations can be tense, and emotions have a way of creeping into our decision making. The ideal outcome is win-win but the reality is often different. So what can you do to influence positive progress? Here are 5 practical tips to help you tune in to and connect with your counterpart:
1) Walk calmly and slowly with an upright bearing into the room. This conveys a message of confidence and ease on your part, and the slower movement is non-threatening. It’s also a very good idea to observe how your counterpart moves and note if they move slowly, fast or with any degree of jerkiness. The latter will denote agitation or anxiety – unless of course there is a physical condition causing it – and may require an extra effort on your part to calm the atmosphere.
2) Shake hands. Research from Harvard Business School and the Booth School of Business (University of Chicago) shows that parties who shake hands at the outset experienced greater openness around issues of contention, leading to more satisfactory outcomes for both sides. (Note: the handshake should be neither the ‘Wet Fish’ nor the ‘Bonecrusher” – see my previous article on handshakes: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/introductions-your-handshake-speaks-volumes-joseph-mcguire/)
3) Make eye contact. It’s striking how often people focus on reading from prepared statements or turn their eyes away. It is equally advisable not to stare in an attempt to psyche out your counterpart a la boxers at a weigh-in. Calm relaxed and regular eye contact, ideally for a maximum of 30 seconds at a time conveys that you are present and engaged with the process.
4) Your smile should be the full Duchenne smile where your eyes crinkle, rather than just your mouth being involved. A full smile also conveys relaxed confidence and openness to engaging. It will also help ensure you remain relaxed as it transmits through your own physiology.
5) This may not always be possible depending on the setting, but if possible I’d recommend keeping your counterparts feet in view. Any sudden change of position, especially if the feet turn towards each other reveals the point being discussed is a ‘hot button’ for them. I’d advise noting it, letting it pass, and allowing the conversation move on to more neutral territory. When they have returned to their baseline state i.e. normal body language/posture raise the topic again. If their feet make the same or similar movement stick with the topic until you’re satisfied with the answer.
In the real world you may not always achieve the result you desire. You may have to settle for your BATNA – best alternative to a negotiated agreement – but at least if you’ve adopted the above tips you’ll be in a much more relaxed state regardless of the outcome.
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Joseph McGuire is the owner of Clearsight Communications who provide personal evaluation services and training in the areas of senior level recruitment/promotion, negotiations, sales communications and HR. Individual consultation sessions are available both in person and via Skype. He is also in demand for group presentations, private functions and conferences.
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