An understanding of non-verbal communication is a key element in effective negotiation – the statistic that only 7% of the meaning of what we say is conveyed by the words, is often quoted. People often don’t mean what they say in negotiation, so if you understand non-verbal cues you can work out what is going on behind the words being spoken.

Equally, non-verbal indicators are only clues as to what is going on; they are not determinative all by themselves. If someone leans forward that may mean they want to get the deal done or it may mean that they are “pushing” to get their own way. You have to put individual pieces of non-verbal behaviour into context to build up a picture of what may be going on.

Non-verbal cues are particularly important for spotting the way people are thinking. You can sometimes tell from their language and the way they move their eyes whether they work off visual cues, auditory cues, or emotional cues. People who look upwards a lot when they think may be working visually, people who look sideways may be working off auditory cues, and people who look down may use emotional triggers.

If you can work this out, you can utilise language which is likely to influence the other side in a negotiation because it triggers the cues which inform their thinking process.

In response to the article ‘Actions speak louder’ by Mike Utting (