Business Negotiation and Body Language

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Negotiations are an important element of the daily life in the world of globalization, technological developments, communications, and trade. These events have seen citizens, organizations, and governments engage in numerous transnational interactions in their operations. The interests of an individual, a nation, or a group may be dependent on the actions or interests of others, thus requiring negotiations to achieve them. In most instances, navigating through an impasse is a common phenomenon in negotiations. Therefore, negotiating power is an important factor in the negotiation process (Bacharach & Lawler, 1981). Negotiations occur in many places, personal and professional life throughout the day; when a person is driving, overcoming challenges, and making important decisions, and most importantly business negotiations. Many people regard negotiating power as a product of political connections, wealth, physical strength, or friendships, among other things. However, the relative power of two parties in the negotiation process highly depends on the gravity of consequences should the agreement not be reached (Raifa, 1982). This paper discusses the theory and practice of business negotiations as well as the importance of body language in business negotiations.

Communication is key in all types of negotiations particularly business negptiations and varieties of channels are used to communicate. The use of language is a common means of information exchange to express ones ideas and feelings through words and body language such as facial expressions, voice tones, variation, and gestures can play a significant role in negotiations. Business negotiations require a mastery of the art of body language as well as an understanding of the specific signals and diversities of body language for the negotiators. Verbal messages are important in negotiations but many negotiators are oblivious of the extent to which they communicate through body language that can affect the entire negotiation process. Successful business negotiations therefore require the use of both language skills and body language to facilitate business negotiations (Zhou & Zhang, 2008).

According to Zhou & Zhang (2008), body language reveals our inner thoughts and the way people we communicate with can read our facial expressions and gestures to understand our reaction to a particular situation. Body language is involuntary and is often expressed through different patterns of facial expression, gestures, and voice tones that people employ in communication to reveal their true feelings or react on a given subject genuinely. For instance, eye contact is a significant aspect of body language and a good negotiator is able to use this aspect together with other elements of body language to his or her advantage. In business negotiations, it is important for  negotiators to manage their non verbal behaviour to ensure the true meaning of communication is delivered to the other party appropriately and correctly. Business negotiations involve different participants such as business owners, facilitators, and designers among others who execute the negotiation process through the different roles assigned to them in the negotiation process. The way these actors in negotiation express their verbal and non-verbal communication greatly determines the outcomes of business negotiation. Accurate translations of body language signals and facial expressions enables the negotiation partners understand each other and reach common decisions within the shortest time possible. It is therefore necessary for negotiators to learn body language in negotiations in order to promote the negotiation process while at the same time ensuring the parties exercise patience that is a powerful element in the negotiation process.

In practice, partners in business negotiations employ various strategies to reach an agreement. The following elements are essential for a successful integrative approach to negotiation from a practical point of view. They are interests, people, options, legitimacy, alternatives, commitments as well as verbal and body language communication (Fisher & Ury, 1981). The first thing to do when going into a negotiation is to identify interests of the parties involved, instead of positions. Interests are based on the underlying factors that make people take given positions. The second issue is people whereby it is important to remember that the opposing side also consists of people who are subject to misunderstanding, can make mistakes and wrong assumptions especially when communication is not clear. Separation of the people and the problem is very important. The third issue to consider is the best alternatives to a negotiated agreement. Alternatives give the negotiator flexibility. The fourth is options; these are the possible solutions to a problem discussed by the negotiating parties. The parties examine the options put forward and see how they best suit as solutions to their problem. The fifth is the criteria or legitimacy; the position taken by each party should be such that the other party accepts that the criteria used to arrive at it are legitimate. The sixth element is commitment; the final agreement in business negotiation lasts as long as the parties involved remain committed. Failure to do this leads to resentment and mistrust if the parties get involved in business negotiations in future. Lastly, good verbal and non-verbal communication is essential to understanding the other party by actively listening and equally essential in relaying one’s message (Bacharach & Lawler, 2006).

The use of body language in business negotiations is therefore significant and not only determines the outcomes of the negotiation process but also the duration. Communication is central in all successful negotiations and enhances the efficiency of the entire negotiation process from one stage to the next. An understanding of body language also enables learning of different cultures, which is very important in international business negotiations since different cultures attach different meanings to body language. This ensures values attached to specific body signals by a particular society or nation are not violated but respected throughout the negotiation process (Axelrod, 1984).

In conclusion, the negotiation process in businesses can be approached in many ways, but adequate preparation is key to successful negotiations, regardless of the strategy employed. The negotiator’s ability to carefully consider all the elements underlying a particular situation and thinking through the options is key in business negotiations. In addition, body language must be applied with verbal communication to reinforce the communication process. The negotiators must keep the events in perspective with honesty and fairness, as the circumstances may permit. Negotiation is used because of the existence of a common ground between the two parties. Therefore, capitalizing on the common ground can be beneficial to a negotiator. This can be accomplished when both negotiators view each other as partners rather than opponents. This would promote productive interactions and accord the disputing parties an opportunity to work together in designing a solution beneficial to all. Paying attention to ones communication behaviours especially non-verbal can greatly influence the business negotiations results positively.

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