Did you know that 55% of communication between people is through body language and eye contact? Yep — only 7% of communication is the words you use; 38% is your pitch, speed, volume, and tone.
This underscores the importance of body language in negotiation — both in controlling your own and in understanding the other party’s.
“Reading facial expressions is a particularly useful skill for business executives because, so often in business settings, people don’t say what they really think,” wrote Meridith Levinson in an article for CIO magazine. According to Paul Ekman, author of Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life, facial expressions are hard to decipher because they are fleeting and people try to hide them, but they are the clearest indicator of what someone is feeling, as well.
“The face is the only system that will tell us the specific emotion that’s occurring,” he told CIO. To practice reading facial expressions, he suggests looking in a mirror and observing your expressions as you remember times that you felt specific emotions such as anger, fear, disgust, etc.
Eye contact — or lack thereof — can tell you a lot about the other party’s intentions. Avoiding eye contact can mean someone is trying to keep something from you. Also, where a person looks when they are thinking can tell you something about their communication and learning style, which can help you communicate more effectively with her or him. For example, visual-dominant people tend to look up, auditory-dominant people tend to look to the left or right, and kinesthetic people tend to look down and to the right. This is not universal, but along with other cues can be helpful.
Hand and Arm Movement
How someone moves — or not — their hands and arms can tell you something about what they are thinking. For example, people often move their arms and hands more when they are excited or confident. In fact, you want to watch for arms that are held too still — this is often the first place a deceiver starts when trying to control his or her body language.
A good resource on body language can be found at ChangingMinds.org.