Nonverbal Communication Can Speak Louder Than Words


Negotiation and mediation are all about communication. You need to send explicit, consistent messages. It’s not just your words that are communicating; it’s your body language. If your body and mouth are saying two different things, you’re confusing the listener and harming your credibility. If you’re on the same page, your message is much more clear, effective and forceful.

There are many issues to be aware of when it comes to nonverbal communication. They are things you should focus on when you speak and be mindful of when the other side is telling their side of the story, according to an article in Lifehack.

  • Hand movements: Rubbing one’s face or head can be interpreted as a sign of anxiety and putting your hands over your mouth or eyes may be an indication you’re hiding something or lying. Nail biting or fidgeting with hair is a sign of possible nervousness or insecurity.
  • Facial expressions: A smile is not always a smile. It can display happiness, fond memories of the past, annoyance or sadness. If the person is looking down it may be a sign he or she is hiding something, or he or she may just be shy.
  • Posture: Arms crossed at the chest can show the person is feeling defensive. Crossed ankles suggest nervousness.
  • Eye contact: Looking upward and to the right may be a sign of dishonesty and looking upward to the left may show they’re remembering something (unless they’re left-handed, then they’d look to the right).
  • Relax: Even if negotiations are becoming stressful maintaining a relaxed body position helps ease the tension. If you are also soft-spoken and avoid aggression, it can help build trust with the other side (and your client).
  • Don’t fidget: Stay still or risk being seen as nervous and not entirely under control. Try to appear calm and confident.
  • Shake hands: Firm but not too tight, one up and down movement along with eye contact helps you connect with the other person. A less than textbook handshake is better than none at all.

To better communicate,

  • Be more aware of your small gestures.
  • Think about how the other person may interpret your body language.
  • If you smile when you first meet someone, is the smile genuine or may it be interpreted otherwise?
  • A firm handshake, eye contact, and a solid smile will help you be seen as more confident.

Try not to send mixed messages.

  • If you hear someone say they’re doing great while smiling you get one impression if they say it with a loud sigh, you get another.
  • You may interpret the body language of someone under stress with that of someone who’s dishonest or angry, types of people often involved in lawsuits.

Pay more attention to others’ reactions because it may allow you to interact with others more successfully. If the person’s body language shows they feel uncomfortable, you could say things to make the person feel more relaxed.

You may say all the right things, but if they’re not told in the right tone and accompanied with conflicting or contradictory body language, your negotiation or mediation may take a lot longer or be much less successful than you hoped.

Steven Mehta
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