Negotiation Tricks for Lawyers: 5 Body Language Tips

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 23, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Whether it's putting together a deal for a client or clinching a better bonus for yourself, negotiating is an inescapable part of your legal life. You can prep for days, run through dozens of potential negotiating scenarios, and know just what deal you need to make in order to come out on top.

But all of that could be for naught, if your body language betrays you. Body language and non-verbal communication can have just as much impact on your negotiations as the offers you put on the table. Here's how to make your body language work for you in a negotiation.

1. Shake Hands

Firm and dry is best, but any handshake will do. Research shows that handshakes makes people comfortable, encourages honesty, and increases cooperation, according to Fast Company. So press a little flesh to help get the other side in a compromising mood. Just try to make sure it's not clammy.

2. Make and Maintain Eye Contact

There's a reason guilty children have trouble making eye contact and nervous politicians blink uncontrollably: our eyes often give us away. Projecting a strong, confident demeanor means making and maintaining consistent eye contact during negotiations. If you're having trouble looking deep into the other side's eyes too long, focusing on the root of their nose also works.

3. Mimic

Mimicry puts people at ease. If you're negotiating partner is leaning forward, for example, mirroring that position can help signal that you, too, are equally engaged. Mimicking can also help amplify another's feelings, reinforcing and encouraging behavior. Mirroring behaviors is often unconscious, however, so pay attention and don't let your partner's tense or aggressive stance rub off on you.

4. Hide Your True Feelings

If you're nervous, don't fidget. If you're extremely confident, don't sit back and gloat. If you're desperate for a deal, don't look too enthusiastic. Keeping a good poker face is about knowing your feelings and being able to hide them as needed. If you have an important deal coming up, consider filming yourself in a mock negotiation, to better understand and control how your emotions express themselves in your body language.

5. Keep an Open Posture

Crossing your arms, furrowing your brow, or clenching your teeth aren't good negotiating strategies. They can make you seem closed off, threatened, or agitated. Maintain an open posture, with your arms open, hands free, and feet planted firmly on the ground.

Remember, your body language is a tool. Mastering it can give you a leg up in any negotiation.

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