In the second of our series on body language we learned posture and seating, while they may sound like ‘old school’ negotiation tactics, are important.
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 third of 7 that will focus on the key body language skills you need to excel at negotiations. In this post, we discuss why head tilting is so critical to negotiations.
This series will cover:
- The Handshake
- Posture and Seating
- Head Tilting
- Eye Blinking
- Eye Movement
- Hand Use
We (salespeople and procurement people) crave attention. We crave approval. Regardless of what side of the table you’re sitting on, you want to know that you’re being heard. You want to know that the person you’re speaking to is actually listening to you and is interested in what you’re saying. When someone isn’t listening or seems uninterested in something that you think is hugely important it’s the most infuriating/disappointing feeling in the world.
So how do you know that the other party is actually listening and interested?
Head gestures reveal a lot about the way we see things and whether we’ve actually heard the other party. Try to think of it from your own experience. When you’re intrigued, what does your head do? I’ll bet for most of you it leans in. And when you’re repulsed what does it do? It likely pulls away. So you see, your head reveals a lot of how you feel about what is said.
Leaning In Head Tilt
The use of a head tilt while leaning in tells the other party that you’re engaged in what they’re saying. If you see someone that sits completely upright as they look at you with no tilt in the head, they’re not listening to you. They’re likely thinking of the next thing that they want to say. Professional speakers learn to study this. In many ways, professional speaking and negotiation is very similar. When a speaker is giving a talk, body language from the audience and the ‘tells’ that the audience gives allows the speaker to determine whether their speech is on track or not. Is the audience interested or not interested? Speakers need to know this to know whether they need to pivot their speech to get it back on track. Similarly, professional negotiators need to know whether what they’re saying is having the desired response. But be weary of the experienced professional negotiator who has mastered the strategic cringe!
Speaking biologically, when you lean in and tilt your head, you expose the carotid artery on the side of the neck. Social scientists and biologists have suggested that this may be a sign of submission or being vulnerable (procurement people hate it when I say that). Just so you know, it’s okay to be submissive or vulnerable (but let’s save that for another discussion).
Pulling Away Head Tilt
By contrast, when you tilt your head and pull away, you’re telling the other party that you’re suspicious. It’s an immediate negative and defensive response. As a professional speaker, If you see this from your audience, I hope you’ve intended for that reaction to happen, otherwise your speech may be prematurely over. Likewise as a professional negotiator, if you get this response, something you just said or did was the source of that response.
Think about it from a biologists perspective. When you pull your head back and tilt your head, you’re not exposing your carotid artery, you’re protecting it. This is definitely not a submissive gesture.
Knowing certain body language skills can give you a SIGNIFICANT advantage in a negotiation. Knowing these body language cues can also give you unique insight into how the other party is receiving your messaging. Communication is a two way street after all. But identifying the body language cues of interest is only getting half way. How do you leverage interest when you see it? How do you recover from an ill placed statement? A lot of that comes from practice, but there are a couple of verbal and body language tactics you can use to get you most of the way there. For now, focus on identifying interest and developing interest. We’ll save leverage and recovery for another post.