Updated: Apr 1
1. Be Aware
The first step to body language improvement is awareness. Start to pay attention to everything you do, and when you do it. The other day, I noticed I play with my pen when talking to new clients or about signing contracts; with that realization I can better understand why I do it and what it means to adjust for the situation and perform better in negotiations. Awareness is half the battle.
2. Study Others
Look at other people. When in a negotiation, people can't help but to give signs. How does someone act when you ask them questions? When they answer are they looking to the left? Are they blinking? Maybe they are touching their face. These are all signs that something is going on in the mind of the person.
3. Mirror the Other Person
If you are sitting or standing opposite somebody, mirror their body positions, match their tone, and carry the same pace of conversation. Don't do it in an obvious or unnatural fashion. Even subtle mirroring can create a synergy and connection, and after a while you'll both be doing it naturally — you won't even know who is following who!
4. Be Aware of How You Cross Your Arms and Legs
Many people find crossing arms or legs comfortable, so it's no use to say you can't do it. If you want to cross your legs, that's okay; just be aware of the direction your cross them in, and make sure you cross towards your conversation partner. Beware: crossing your legs in a "figure four" fashion with your ankle resting on your knee can be seen as being stubborn or arrogant.
Also, be aware of other ways of creating crosses with your body; women often grab their opposite shoulder or elbow, or people hold a drink on the table using the opposite hand: these are signs of a lack of confidence or closing your body (and mind) to the conversation.
5. Make Eye Contact
Eyes are windows to the soul, and what you do with them communicates a lot. Be sensitive to cultures that eschew eye contact with elders or strangers; otherwise look somebody in the eye. Not only will you say a lot by doing so, but you might also learn a lot.
6. Relax Your Shoulders
Holding your shoulders by your ears is a sign of tension, and stands to put your conversation partner on edge as well.
7. Face Your Conversation Partner
Similar to crossing arms and legs, not facing your conversation partner is a sign of distraction or disinterest. You'll increase engagement by facing your partner, and can keep command of the negotiations this way.