Your Body, the Negotiator
Carmine Gallo, BusinessWeek
It’s tough to think of yourself as a commodity, so here are six nonverbal ways to sell yourself and get the raise you deserve
Negotiating for pay and perks requires you to sell yourself as a brand. How you walk, talk, and look reflects on that brand. Do you come across as inspiring, confident, and competent, or blah, boring, and bored? Not sure how you come across? Tape yourself and watch, or do a mock interview with a trusted friend—one you can trust to tell you the truth.
Your body language tells people more about who you are, how confident you are about your abilities, and how much you might be worth, than you can express in words—or in a résumé. Great leaders have commanding presence. They exude authority, confidence, and control when entering a room. Develop the nonverbal skills of great leaders to make a strong impression during your next negotiation. Here are six nonverbal habits that will leave others wowed by your presence:
1. Make Eye Contact
Eye contact makes you appear confident and competent. Shifty, or wandering, eyes reflect a lack of confidence and could damage your ability to negotiate the best package. When you ask for a substantial increase in salary or benefits, you must appear as though you deserve it. Eye contact not only helps create a stronger bond between you and your listener; it leaves a powerful impression that you are confident about yourself. In a business setting, it is not only acceptable but appropriate to maintain eye contact 80% to 90% of the time.
2. Avoid Tapping, Fidgeting, and Fumbling
Nervous gestures can undermine your efforts to appear confident and competent. Be aware of the small ticks that might reflect a case of nerves. The most common is toe tapping. Have you ever sat across from someone whose feet are jiggling a mile a minute? It’s obvious and annoying. The same goes with fidgeting with your fingers or fumbling around with a notepad or pen. When you are seated behind a table or desk, avoid tapping your fingers on the surface. Again, it’s a subtle nervous gesture that works against a powerful impression.
3. Lean Forward
Leaning back in a chair makes you appear distant, disinterested, and disconnected. A trick I learned as a TV anchor is to lean forward by positioning yourself near the edge of the chair. If you lean slightly forward, you will appear far more engaged. If you are seated behind a table or desk, rest your hands comfortably on the surface in front of you without invading the space of the other person.
4. Use Appropriate Hand Gestures
Whether you are standing or sitting, hand gestures are important. Dr. David McNeil at the University of Chicago has discovered that complex gestures (two hands above the waist) reflect complex thought. Hand gestures actually give the listener confidence in the speaker.
However, hand gestures during a negotiation must be used sparingly and carefully. Too few hand gestures and you risk looking stiff and wooden; too many hand gestures and you appear out of control. Strive for a balance but don’t be afraid of using your hands to emphasize key points.
5. Maintain an Open Posture
“Closed” posture simply means placing a barrier between you and the listener. For example, standing behind a lectern is sometimes off-putting because it creates an artificial barrier between people. In the context of negotiating, reduce barriers. The most obvious barrier is the one you create with your own body. Crossed arms are “closed,” as are clasped hands and crossed legs. Crossing your arms or legs across your body at any point during a conversation probably won’t make or break the negotiation, but doing it too often might keep you from establishing a strong connection with the other person.
6. Engage in Active Listening
During negotiations, people want to know that the other party is listening. Show genuine interest by maintaining a warm smile, making eye contact, and nodding your head when appropriate. Pause for a second before answering. It shows you are listening and sincerely considering the other person’s position.
I have no doubt that you work hard and deserve more pay and perks. In addition to knowing where you stand, the value you provide, and what you plan to say during your negotiation, don’t forget to match your nonverbal language with the power of your words. Your body speaks volumes. Make sure it talks confidently!
Carmine Gallo is a Pleasanton (Calif.)-based communications coach and author of 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators.