Have you observed how people use head gestures when negotiating? If not, you should. There’s invaluable information in such displays. In some cases, what might be viewed as incongruity between what is spoken and what is indicated by the movement of one’s head, may turn out to be a valid manner in which they communicate. If you misconstrue their actions, you’ll misinterpret important information you otherwise would have received.
When considering how to interpret the real meaning to incongruent head gestures, pay attention to these factors.
Head movement: Some people actually move their head from side to side to indicate they’re in agreement with you. That’s contrary to what you expect to see. In most cases, when someone moves their head from side to side, they’re indicating that they’re in disagreement. Prior to the official negotiation, verify the manner in which the other negotiator uses head gestures, by asking questions that require nonverbal responses. Then, observe his head gesture mannerisms.
Leading you to agreement: Some people will end a statement while moving their head up and down; That’s what we normally expect to see when someone is in agreement. By moving their head at the end of a statement in such a manner, subliminally, they’re attempting to lead you to agreeing with their pronouncement. Make sure you understand what their attempt is and be sure the action is aligned with their words from a congruency perspective.
Note differences in head movement: In verbal versus nonverbal occurrences, the same head gesture could convey different thoughts. Don’t assume there’s incongruence, just because the head movement and the spoken word are not synchronized. The mental state of mind of the other negotiator may be such that he expresses himself subconsciously in such a manner. Verify the ‘real’ meaning of his gestures before making assumptions.
In any negotiation, you should always create a plan before entering into the negotiation. By including the observation of how someone uses their head gestures, you’ll put yourself in a better position to avoid ‘de-feet’ (The role feet play in a negotiation will be explored in another Negotiation Tip.)… and everything will be right with the world. Remember, you’re always negotiating.
• Be conscious of the fact that the mental thought someone possesses can be seen in the way they move their head to acknowledge agreement, disagreement, contemplation, and/or bewilderment. In order to make such interpretations of benefit to you during a negotiation, be sure to understand the real meaning of their head movements.
• Practice using head gestures to lead people to agreeing with your thoughts. Do so with friends and observe to what degree they agree with you. By doing so, you’ll gain insight into when to use such a tool.
• Always be aware when yes means yes and no means no. You can glean such insight by observing head gestures. In so doing, you can apply order to chaos.