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Use Body Language When You Negotiate

By Traci Brown

Lawyers negotiate all the time — with other lawyers, partners, staff and clients. Even at home, you’re probably negotiating to get someone in your family to do what you want. One key to successful negotiation is creating a deep feeling of connection with the person you are communicating with. Think about it. Don’t people say yes much more often when they’re already comfortable with you?

With some people, you reach that level of comfort and connection automatically, but why leave it to chance? You can get to agreement much more easily when you master a few simple techniques to create ease and flow in your communications.

That’s Your Body Talking

You are communicating all the time, no matter what words are coming out of your mouth — and even when they’re not. Studies show that 55 percent of your communication is body language, while 38 percent is pacing and tonality of voice. That leaves a mere 7 percent for words.

To create a connection, you must become flexible in your communication and focus on what the other person needs from you. Most likely, you communicate your way — you do things how you do them, say things however you say them, and rely on your words to get your message across. Instead, you need to learn to communicate the way others need to hear your message. Body language plays a big role in that.

Try these three simple techniques and you will find that you get to agreement much more easily.

1. Address people at a 45-degree angle or greater. When you face people straight on, you create a feeling of deep, unconscious confrontation — for both of you. This can be troublesome if you want an easy negotiation. You want to seem as nonconfrontational as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is to adjust your body to a 45-degree angle when addressing others. Just open your shoulders up slightly to them — it doesn’t matter if you’re standing or sitting.  When in meetings, set up the room so that you’re not staring at each other across the table. Stagger the chairs. Use your chair’s swivel feature. Notice how this eases the situation. You can feel it!

2. Match their body movements. A Duke University study showed just physically doing what other people do helps them feel comfortable — and they will say yes more easily. But you’ve got to do this right — otherwise, you’ll create quite the opposite effect! Here’s how it works: People move and change positions all the time when you’re talking with them. When they move, wait a bit and subtly make the same move yourself.  So, for example, if they lean on their right leg, you lean on your right leg. You’ll look like a non-mirror image. If they scratch their ear with their left hand, you scratch your ear with your left hand. If they lean on their left elbow on the table, you lean on your left elbow on the table. It’s easy. Just make yourself look like their opposite. This reaches people on the subconscious level — they won’t realize you’re doing it, but they’ll feel great around you. But you’ve got to take the time to get good at it. Remember: It’s subtle!

3. Match their pace of speech. Most lawyers tend to think quickly — you’ve got lots of details on your mind and want to get on to the next thing. This means you probably speak quickly, too. But know that your employees and clients may not be as speedy as you (especially if they are under stress, or if this is the first time they’ve encountered legal problems). If you unload rapid-fire details onto someone who processes information more slowly than you, you’ll lose them. Listen to the speed of their speech and aim to match it. You may need to slow down a bit to meet them where they are. This technique works great over the phone when others can’t see you. It can be frustrating at first, but it’s well worth the effort.

These three techniques take some practice to master, but once you do, you will notice that people respond to you differently, and for the better.

Traci L. Brown is a body language and persuasion expert. She’s a frequent guest on TV and radio interpreting body language and helps lawyers to pick and persuade a jury based on body language. She’s a Certified Master Practitioner of neuro-linguistics, hypnosis and huna. She is the author of Body Language Confidential: Tactics Every Secret Agent, Sales Person and Kindergarten Teacher Should Know and Mastering Magical Persuasion. Follow her @TraciBrown37.

Illustration ©ImageZoo.

This post was first published by Attorney at Work on July 23, 2013.

Categories: Communications Skills, Daily Dispatch, Lawyer Skills
Originally published May 25, 2016
Last updated April 18, 2018
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Traci Brown

Traci Brown is a body language and persuasion expert, and certified master practitioner of Neuro Linguistics, Hypnosis and Huna. She uses this expertise in her keynotes for banking, credit unions and finance groups on how to detect and prevent fraud, and frequently assists lawyers in jury selection.  Traci is the author of Body Language Confidential: Tactics Every Secret Agent, Sales Person and Kindergarten Teacher Should Know and Mastering Magical Persuasion, and Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence. Follow her @TraciBrown37.

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