Interview with Negotiation and Body Language Expert Greg Williams
Greg Williams, the master negotiatorWith the richness of his 30 years of negotiation and reading body language experience, Greg Williams is an accomplished author, speaker and trainer recognized worldwide for his knowledge and insight on those subjects. He’s often requested to appear on TV to critique the meaning and degree of truthfulness concealed in the negotiation strategies and hidden body language gestures of politicians, entertainers, and others in the news.

Being a business owner since 1993, Greg’s astute when it comes to the maneuverings of operating and maintaining a successful business operation. He has advised, consulted with, and lent his expertise on reading body language and negotiation strategies to improve the inner workings of numerous small and large corporate organizations.

With this latest book, Greg takes readers on a journey of enlightenment and unravels the vortex of uncertainty that some find themselves in when trying to decipher body language to add extra dimensions to their negotiation abilities.

Greg was kind enough to stop by our website to talk about his book, as well as some of the most common obstacles people come across in negotiations, and the importance of body language.

Hi Greg, welcome to Activia’s Expert Insights corner. When did you become interested in how body language effects negotiations?

When I was a kid (4, 5, 6 years old), I saw my mother and grandmother constantly asking for lower prices and more of what they wanted when purchasing goods.

I recall one time in particular when I was about 17 years old, I’d been working and saved my money to purchase a car I saw advertised at a dealership. My mother took me to the dealership only to be told the car had just been sold (right!). The salesperson told her that he had another vehicle in the same price range (can you say bait and switch)?

Try as she did to get the price lowered, the new vehicle was a few hundred dollars higher than the one advertised and the salesperson wasn’t budging any lower. He said, after much haggling, that was his best price.

My mother got up to leave; I was modified at not getting a car and it showed on my face. The salesperson said, “You don’t want to disappoint your son, do you?” To which my mother replied, “You’d be the one disappointing him. He came here on the good faith that your advertisement led him to believe he’d be able to purchase the car. You said the car ‘was just sold’ (body language conveying disbelief), would you want someone to do that to your kid?” The salesperson’s face dropped and he said you can have the car for the amount of money your son saved.

At the time, I also observed the facial change of the salesperson. I noted that as the time I started paying much more attention to body language and vowed to understand and learn more about it right then.

And both body language and negotiation have been a massive part of your life since then. Your book, Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations: How to Read Any Opponent and Get What You Want, has just been released – could you tell us a little bit about it? What can people who purchase the book achieve by reading it?

In Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations, readers will learn how to employ their knowledge of body language to instantly read the other negotiator’s position, as well as:
  • How colors influence a negotiation
  • When you should negotiate standing up versus sitting down
  • What a momentary frown means
  • How to use the affinity principle to connect with the other negotiator
  • How to shift your strategy as you read the other negotiator’s body langauge signals.

Body Language Secrets by Greg WilliamsWhy did you feel that this topic needed to be addressed in a book?

A lot of people know how to negotiate better than they know how to read body language. My publisher, Career Press, suggested that I lead with reading body language to strengthen that aspect of a negotiator’s tool kit.

I’m very glad I did, because the subject of reading body language is one that I’ve acquired a lot of expertise in and I love imparting such insights to those that gain immense benefit from it. Some have already told me, being able to read body language better has made them a better negotiator.

Do you think body language holds more of an importance than what we say in a negotiation?

Without a doubt, body language carries more sway in a negotiation than our words. We can utter the same word/phrase with a voice inflection and/or body language gestures that will alter the perception, and thus the reception of a word. In addition, some studies have indicated that as much as 80% of our communication is conveyed via our body language. Thus, in a negotiation, the other negotiator is observing how you say what you say to assess hidden meanings that might be concealed in your message.

Could you briefly explain how a person’s body language can effect a negotiation?

From the moment two individuals shake hands at the ‘official start’ of a negotiation, they’re already negotiating. In reality, they started negotiating before they reached that point via any form of communications they’ve had, even if it was only in the form of one gathering information about the other and forming thoughts and opinions of how he was going to engage in the negotiation with that person. So, when the negotiation ‘officially begins’, the negotiators will be looking for body language gestures that either confirm what he’s hearing, per what insights he’d already gleaned, and using that as testament to confirm, or not, his perspective per the degree the truth is being spoken.

Thus, if the flicking of a hand gesture (i.e. casting away) is made and we state that an offer should really be taking seriously, the flicking of the hand gesture should be noted as a body language gesture that indicates the offer is not as serious as proposed. When we flick something away, we’re indicating that we want to get rid of it, due to a lack of value it has.

Is it possible to be fully aware and in control of your body language?

A good negotiator is always aware of his or her body language. A great one is even more mindful of controlling it. To the degree that a negotiator is aware of the nuances that are in the negotiation environment, they can better control the negotiation. Thus, in order to do so, they must control their own body language, via the synchronization between their words and body language gestures. When words are not aligned with body language gestures, great negotiators will pay more credence to the body language. That’s why being able to accurately read body language is so important in a negotiation and every aspect of life.

What are the most common obstacles people come across in a negotiation?

I believe the most common obstacle that people encounter in a negotiation is fear. Fear of not being good enough to ask for what they deserve or want in the negotiation, along with seeing the opposing negotiator as having more resources / power, is the source from which that fear might stem.

On the other side of fear, per common obstacles, is the negotiator that discounts the knowledge, position, background of the other negotiator. Such sentiments place him at a disadvantage, due to his underestimating the person with whom he’s negotiating.

When it comes to fear, some negotiators want a deal so badly that they’ll acquiesce to almost any request. Acquiescing too quickly sends the subliminal signal that more requests/demands can be made by the requesting negotiator.

In either case of fear or over-confidence, a good negotiator will be adaptable to the flow of the negotiation per the body language that he senses throughout the negotiation. Doing so gives him insights to hidden meanings conveyed through body language, which highlights what’s not said. By doing so, that negotiator will have a greater sense of how to respond to offers and counteroffers.

Greg Williams speaker

What do you wish more people knew about body language?

I wish more people took note of how important it is to read body language accurately. By reading body language accurately they’d see, sense, and hear a new realm of communication.

The body attempts to always keep itself in a state of comfort. Thus, when it’s not in that state, it will emit signals indicating that it’s not comfortable. Signals of discomfort can be noticed in a negotiation (i.e. tugging at your collar, constant rubbing of hands, swallowing to clear your throat, etc.) and when such is observed it would behoove the observing negotiator to take note as to what prompted such actions. Was the opposing negotiator nervous about the offer because he knew he wasn’t telling the truth, did the query strike too close to something that he does not want to disclose? Those are just some of the thoughts that should be considered.

In such situations, a good negotiator will determine how to address that circumstance via slowing the negotiation down to allow the opposing negotiator to scrum in discomfort, or extricate him from it by extracting some form of concession. It all starts with being more astutely aware of the body language being emitted.

Are you working on any new projects that you’d like to share with us?

I’ll be part of a movie that will begin shooting in 2017. The topic will be reading body language. Other noted body language experts will also be in the film. I’ll have a major role in that movie as the lead consultant / expert, in giving insight per the flow of the narrative of the movie. It will premiere sometime in the latter part of 2018. Stay tuned for more!

Looking forward to hearing more about it! Thanks for stopping by, Greg, and good luck with the film!

Greg's book, Body Language Secrets to Win More Negotiations: How to Read Any Opponent and Get What You Want, is available to order from both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Or if you'd like to say hello to him on Twitter, you can find Greg at @The_Negotiator.