Subtle Face and Body Clues You May Miss During Negotiations

Negotiation can seem like a tricky process and you may find yourself wondering what the other person is thinking. If only you could see into their mind. Well, you may not be able to look into their mind but you can tell a lot about how someone is feeling by their body language. Communication happens both verbally and nonverbally and if you only focus on the verbal exchange, you are likely to walk away wondering why things didn’t go your way. On the other hand, if you pay attention to things like facial expressions and body movements, you can get a much better understanding of how the other person is reacting to the conversation. Here are a few body language clues to watch for in your next negotiation. 

Eye Contact

There are a few telltale signs to look for on a person’s face and this starts with eye contact. If a person is showing increased and steady eye contact, that’s a good indicator of honesty and interest. On the other hand, if a person looks away or avoids making eye contact with you, that can indicate that the person is trying to hide something from you. You also want to pay attention to the way the person moves their eyebrows. A raised eyebrow, for instance, can often mean that the person is confused or disbelieving what you are saying. 

Red Face

If you notice your counterpart getting red in the face that’s a sign that it’s time to stop for a moment. A red face usually means the person is angry, embarrassed or both. If you notice a bulging vein in their face, this definitely indicates that the person is feeling stressed and their blood pressure has shot up. All of these signs mean you need to take a break and reassess the situation. 

Arm Movement

In addition to facial expressions, you can also tell a lot about how someone is feeling by their arm movement. Open arms generally indicate that the person is listening and open to what you are saying. On the other hand, crossed arms can mean the person is feeling frustrated or angry. It can also indicate that the person is feeling defensive. Furthermore, if someone turns one shoulder toward you, this can mean that they are defensive and are about to let you know. At this point, you may want to change your approach. 

Hand Gestures

Hand signals can also provide information about how someone is feeling. Open and relaxed hands are usually a green light that things are going well and the person is listening and engaged. In contrast, tightly clasped hands are a sign that the person is feeling a strong negative reaction and this can go along with a red face. If you notice the person constantly fidgeting with their hands and touching their face or clothing, this can indicate nervousness or tension. 

Body Angle

You may be surprised at how much you can learn from someone’s body angle. For example, if the other person is leaning forward, this means that they are listening and following you. This is a good sign that things are going well. On the other hand, if they are leaning back or turning their face away from you, this usually indicates that they are negatively reacting to what you are saying. If they are swaying side to side, this might show doubt or insecurity. At this point, you want to probe to see if they are uncomfortable or they have just lost interest. 


Whenever you are negotiating with someone, be sure and pay attention to these subtle body language clues. Look for shifts in their body movements or obvious facial expressions to better understand what they are experiencing. Be mindful of your own body language as well, as you may end up giving away more than realize by doing some of these same things.