If you want to analyse your negotiating partner, you should also observe their body language. Of course, this is a very complex and complicated subject, and we will focus only on the aspects that are relevant to a negotiation.
Remember: Body language is not a snapshot, but a process.
There are magazines that portray ‘body language’ for their readers with beautiful high-gloss imagery. You might see an attractive young lady sitting on a chair in various poses, and the readers can interpret the different postures by checking off the provided answers. If only it were that easy! Every photo captures only a single moment. The snapshot encapsulates the body language of that particular second – but not of the second before or after it.
Imagine seeing this woman pictured in a relaxed posture, neither legs nor arms crossed, her gaze open and directed at the observer. The caption below the photo contains an ‘expert’ tip: This woman is seeking contact. You take this tip seriously and stroll around town with an eye out for this posture. In a café you see a good-looking young woman sitting there in this exact pose. You walk up to her and tell her that you, too, would like to make contact. It could be that the woman is absolutely delighted – but it is also possible that she will respond quite angrily.
A photo is always a static snapshot – its interpretation can be, but does not have to be, correct. Far more interesting is the unfolding process in the body language. If you actually did address this young lady, it would be interesting to see how she reacts. Does she open her posture even further, or block the approach? Does she fold her arms or turn her head away?
You should therefore focus less on the momentary pose of the person across from you, but more on the changes in posture during the negotiation. How does your negotiating partner react when you introduce a new argument? Is there more acceptance or reluctance? What is the response when you name a price or a limit?
Concentrate entirely on your negotiating partner’s body language while you are making your point or they are arguing theirs. Pay attention to the changes. These changes speak volumes about the emotional state of the person you are facing.