The hands are one of the most expressive parts of you body. Learning to use your hands to effectively deliver a message will elevate your negotiation to the next level. And remember, hand use is also very cultural as well. We’re not going to get into the culture piece on this post, but it’s important to remember that negotiation is culturally specific. What applies in the English speaking western world, may not necessarily apply elsewhere.
Mastering your body language and non-verbals is a discipline you MUST pay attention to and that you MUST work on to improve your negotiations. This post is the sixth of 7 that will focus on the key body language skills you need to excel at in negotiations.
This series will cover:
- The Handshake
- Posture and Seating
- Head Tilting
- Eye Blinking
- Eye Movement
- Hand Use
So much of what we use our hands for tells such a huge story about the message that we’re communicating or the confidence that we express in our negotiations. This post will touch on what the hands tell us in some very typical and common hand gestures in negotiation and how we can use this information to improve our own body language to increase our effectiveness in negotiations.
What are Your Hands Saying?
Hands Hidden Away – When you keep your hands hidden away, you’re telling the other party that you may be hiding something. Some people say that this also applies to hands in pockets, but I disagree. I think if you’re keeping your hands below a desk while talking with someone it could be construed that you may be hiding something, but not in your pockets. Think about it, there’s a reason that poker players need to keep their hands on the table when viewing their cards. Try not to do this. I know this is tough for many of us who tend to be more analytical and reserved, but it’s important that the other party that you’re negotiating with can see your hands in a negotiation (unless you just cannot control them,…then keep them below the desk).
The Politician’s Plea – Ever see a politician use their hands when they’re asking for support? Their hands are open, palm up, and at a 45 degree angle (some people call this the preacher’s plea too.). This gesture shows the other party that you are being open and honest, that you can be trusted, and that your message can be relied upon. This hand gesture is powerful when combined with other gestures that reinforce this. Using this gesture when asking for something can deliver that extra edge you need to get what you want in a negotiation.
The Dominant Spread – I love this hand gesture! When sitting at a table/desk with your hands palm down on the surface and your fingers slightly spread apart, you’re expressing dominance and confidence. It tells the other party that you know what you’re talking about and you’re expressing exactly what you expect from them in a negotiation. Using this to enforce dominance in a negotiation can be super powerful when getting a negotiation back on track.
Wringing – Wringing your hands together must be the most clear sign of nervousness and lack of confidence I can think of. Don’t do this! (unless you’re using this intentionally to draw attention away from something else). Some people don’t wring their hands together, but they rub the back of their necks while moving their heads away (almost trying to physically avoid the negotiation when difficult questions are asked). Seriously, don’t do this. It shows that you’re not only nervous, but you’re potentially hiding something and trying your best to avoid spilling the beans on something.
All Fingers Forward – This reassuring gesture of confidence is best used when you are using both hands, with all fingers straight and facing forward. Use this to express expert knowledge in what you are talking about. If you need to assure someone that you know what you’re talking about or you need to reinforce expert knowledge, use this gesture.
Brian Tracy (the famous business coach) is rumored to practice his hand gestures, in the mirror, extensively for a speech. I don’t know if that’s true, but having seen Brian speak live and having had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I can tell you that I don’t know anyone else who does it quite like he does. His mastery of hand gestures makes the communication of his message stick where it needs to. You too can achieve mastery of your hand gestures, but as with all things in negotiations, it takes practice.