The Negotiator Magazine

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During the course of a negotiation, there are two types of communication, the verbal and nonverbal. Whenever, the two are congruent (the words spoken match the "body language)," there tends to be very little suspicion or doubt concerning the communication. However, whenever they are incongruent, where what is said does not match what the eyes perceive, then, there exists a great deal of suspicion. As the old expressions state, "What you are speaks louder than what you say!" and "Action speaks louder than words."

Another common gesture in negotiating occurs when individuals are very sure, confident and comfortable in their position or in the general way the negotiation is going. At these times, individuals tend to nonverbally communicate those feelings. One of these non-verbal signs is the "steepling" gesture in which the fingers of the hands are joined together as if they were forming a church steeple. The famous author Agatha Christie in her detective novels referred to this gesture as a "pyramid." It is amazing how often individuals who are "in the cat bird's seat" will use the gesture unconsciously indicating their internal feeling.

During a flight to Honolulu I once sat next to the actor Steve McQueen. During our conversation I mentioned to him that I was co-author of How to Read a Person Like a Book and made reference to a movie he had made which was titled "The Cincinnati Kid." In a poker scene he used the "steepling" gesture with Edward G. Robinson. I mentioned that the gesture was completely inappropriate for a professional poker player to ever use. He looked at me for a moment, touched his nose and then said, "You know, some of my friends have told me they like the movie but thought I was not very convincing as a poker player. I think perhaps now I know whey they said it."

When individuals are very sure, confident and comfortable it is impossible to hide nonverbal feelings. If there are not displayed by the body, than these views may be given away by facial expressions or "self-satisfied" sounds. I recall negotiating with a person who I secretly called the "clucker." Unknowingly, whenever he reached his comfort zone or was not threatened by anything, he had a tendency of "clucking" like a barnyard hen. I remember another person who nonverbally communicated his confidence in a negotiation by rubbing his two hands together like a "kid" about to receive a gift.

I truly believe every person nonverbally communicates in their own distinct manner those feelings. An observant negotiator looks for and finds those signs and signals.

This is the first of a series of articles I plan to write on non-verbal communication and other topics for readers of this magazine. Future articles will focus on a variety of other non-verbal signals and their meanings for the negotiator.

Henry H. Calero is President of C-M Associates located in Redwood City, California. Besides co-authoring How to Read a Person Like a Book, he also authored or co-authored Winning the Negotiation; Negotiate the Deal You Want; The Human Side of Negotiating. He has two new books that will be published in 2005: The Power of Nonverbal Communication: What You Do is More Important Than What You Say! and The Soup of Success Has Many Ingredients. He can be reached at

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February 2005