No matter which side of a negotiation you are on, it can be intimidating. For example, salary.com found that 87% of people are apprenhensive about salary negoiations. What’s so nerve racking is all the unknowns. What is the other person going to ask for? How will they react to my counter offer? It can be difficult to prepare for every possibility.
Despite this, practice makes perfect when it comes to negotiation preparation. Even if you can’t know everything the other party might say what you CAN do is go through exercises to appear more confident in your body language and presentation. Here are five things you can start working on right now to improve your negotiation skills:
Work on your handshake
It might seem simple and small, but starting your negotiation with a handshake makes people more cooperative and comfortable. Likely the handshake is happening before or during your introduction – meaning it’s a vital part of your first impression. What are you saying about yourself during this interaction? Are you confident and friendly, or nervous and shaky? Practice your handshake whenever you go over a presentation, so you are not frozen on the spot and it feels natural. It also wouldn’t hurt to have lotion on hand if your hands get clammy or sweaty because of nerves before a negotiation.
Learn balanced eye contact
We all know eye contact matters. But how do you define “good” eye contact? This is going to vary from situation to situation. However, if this is something you struggle, there are a couple good rules of thumbs to start from. While you want to look at a person while you are talking to them, don’t make it a staring contest. Blink naturally, and if you need to look at another person or away, let it happen. Just make sure your eyes aren’t wandering too much to avoid appearing nervous or unsure about what you are saying. It’s not a staring contest, but you do want to stay in control of the conversation.
Mirroring, or copying someone’s body language and movement, is a way to build rapport. The key here is making the other person comfortable – not giving away you are trying to copy them or obviously mimic their every move. But being involved by following their movement is going to look and appear more engaged than if you stay sitting while they’re standing, or leaning away when they lean in. Matching their vocal tone can also make sure you are on the same page and avoid intimidating the other person and appearing hostile, or in the reverse, timid.
If fidgeting is a nervous habit for you – now is the time to cut it out. Whether it’s playing with something on your desk, adjusting your clothes, or messing with your pen – it’s going to make you appear bored with what is going on, even when you don’t feel that way. If you’re having trouble with getting past it, one thing to try might be to plan specific hand movements that amplify your message. This can be easy if you have visual aids to work with and incorporate a pointer.
Learn to read other’s body language
While following all these tips on how to appear more confident and focused while help your negotiation – it is equally important to be able to read the other person’s body language as well. This starts from before the negotiation is even under away by trying to discover a baseline – or their normal attitude and posture before the higher pressure discussion begins. Also be sure to look for those engagement actions – leaning in, nodding, etc. to see if your message is being well received. If they are looking away to an uncomfortable frequency and pulling away, it might be time to change tactics. Other things to look for that aren’t good signs are crossed ankles, touching their face, or a higher vocal tone. To improve in this skill, you can watch negotiations online and take notes. You can also ask for feedback after observing someone else’s discussion to see if you accurately read their feelings.
The higher the stakes are of a negotiation, the more nervous you’re going to feel, and it’s going to show in your body. That’s natural, but don’t let something you can control ruin the outcome of all your head work! Work on improving these soft skills and you’ll find the rest of the process goes more smoothly.