Redefining the essential skills of negotiation


One of the most important skills in business is communication. Whatever is going on in the mind is displayed somewhere in our body and many business deals fall apart by not interpreting what is being communicated non-verbally. The body is a feedback mechanism to the emotions and misreading the cues of negative or positive responses impact the successful running of any business.

Learning how to use the power of non-verbal communication in conjunction with both verbal skills and reading what is being said without words will assure you don’t miss golden opportunities.

One of the most powerful tools we have is our hands. They can be used to direct traffic, lead an orchestra, express a loving gesture and as a primary language for the hearing impaired. So, how can you use your hands to enhance communication and detect signals may be heading down a negative path?

The all-important handshake

Never underestimate the power of a handshake., arguably one of the most important components of a connection. After all, it could be the first and last time you will ever touch that person. The power of touch can dramatically alter the way you interact and connect to a person -get this wrong and the whole deal could be lost before it’s even on the table.

What is the correct way to shake a hand? You may have heard a firm handshake with your hand slightly on top shows you are strong and in control, right? Wrong! Never attempt to dominate someone by shaking their hand too firmly or overturn their hand, it will never be appreciated. Likewise, don’t place your free hand on top of their hand. Studies show this gesture isn’t received well.

If you feel a deeper need to express warmth you can shake hands whilst gently touching the elbow. Given we live in a multicultural society it is wise to be mindful different cultures have different expressions and displays of the handshake. Try to mirror your opponent’s grip and spacial cues. If you do shake someone’s hand and it didn’t feel right you’ll receive a warm, positive response by asking politely to repeat the handshake.

Tell-tale signs of negative responses

Hands are used as pacifiers and can be a tell-tale sign for detecting when someone is uncomfortable, stressed or bored. Missing these signs in a business transaction loses companies deals and can cost the customer to go elsewhere and not return resulting in loss of revenue.

What to look out for and behaviours to avoid doing whilst talking to others:

  • touching or rubbing the neck
  • rubbing the legs or knees
  • rubbing fingers together or playing with something like paperclips, rubber bands etc.
  • touching or stroking face constantly.

Using hands in a positive way

Just as the hands show negative emotional responses, they also show positive and confident behaviours. If you detect any of these behaviours it is wise to change the subject or ask questions to uncover what is really going on.

  • Using a palm facing up is a sign of being truthful and honest with nothing to hide.
  • Palms faced downwards with open fingers demonstrates you know what you’re talking about.
  • Steepling fingers is a sign of confidence and authority – be careful not to overuse it.
  • Using your fingers to match your words like describing points or using the finger and thumb to demonstrate a small amount growing.

Summarising your hands play an important role in business communications, be conscious, pay attention and whatever you do never hide your hands under the desk or by sitting on them.

Louanne Ward, Relationship Strategist, Writer and Motivational Speaker