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Negotiate better: How to increase your leadership skills

Negotiate better by learning what leadership abilities and body language skills you need.

6 min read


Negotiate better image of two people shaking hands


People don’t realize they’re always negotiating. That is especially true with those in leadership roles. One way to enhance your leadership skills is to negotiate better. And this article delivers insights into how to do that — increase your leadership skills by improving your negotiating.

Leadership skills of a good negotiator

The difference between a good leader with heightened negotiation skills and one that is not as good is how you engage the negotiation process. And the following are a few traits and practices of a good negotiator.

Plan for negotiations

Before the official negotiation commences, a good leader determines the strategies they will use to accomplish their goals. As part of that consideration, they take into account:

What-if scenarios

Addressing what-if scenarios consists of creating contingencies for possible occurrences that may happen during the negotiation. The better prepared a negotiator is for them, the better the opportunity to reach a strong outcome.

Know when to make offers and counteroffers

An offer is enhanced or deflated based on when a leader makes it. To increase the probability of someone accepting an offer, make it when you have more power than the other person.

Power is perceptional. So, if you think you have control in a situation and the other party agrees with you, that is power. The converse is also true.

Thus, just because you are in a leadership role does not mean you will be in a leadership position at any particular point in a negotiation. And that is the reasoning behind knowing when to make offers/counteroffers.

Control emotions

Suffice it to say, a leader should always maintain control of their emotions. Doing so increases the perception of their leadership skills. And controlling emotions signals to people that they cannot easily disrupt a leader through mental manipulation.

Accordingly, don’t carry mental baggage into a negotiation. It will only tend to decrease your reasoning abilities. To better control your emotions, consider points of contention that may arise in the negotiation and emulate the feelings you might experience.

From there, determine how you might deal with such emotions by countering them. Remember, a cool head has a greater chance to negotiate better and reach the desired outcome.

Control the environment

Another aspect of leadership in negotiations is controlling the environment. By controlling, I mean managing one’s emotions and governing the feelings of others in the location, too.

The leader can control the environment, the timing of the proceedings and the placement of others during the proceedings. Additional control can occur by setting the agenda of items discussed and when that happens. Doing so will allow the leader greater control.

The value of reading body language in negotiations

A good leader is aware of body language and nonverbal gestures that adds or subtracts from someone’s offer or meaning.

To enrich your leadership skills, observe:

Hand gestures

Hand gestures and their timing grant insight into the thought process one has engaged. For example, if the other negotiator has displayed little hand movement before an offer (his or yours) and then shows gestures more or less animated from their last activity, the proposition is the source behind their actions.

Once you observe hand movement in either direction — slowing down or speeding up — look to the cause that stimulated that action. Therein will lie a point upon which to focus. And you can use that insight to negotiate better and increase your leadership skills.

Voice tonality and intonation

A good leader is aware of the differences between voice tonality and intonation. Intonation is more about one’s speech pattern — slow, moderate, fast. And tone is the emphasis exhibited that can alter the meaning of what one says (e.g., “I DID not do it!”).

To enrich your leadership skills, be aware of when someone’s tone shifts in their spoken questions or statements. And be alert to what motivated the shift. In some cases, someone’s words may appear so overt that they are covert. So, be aware of hidden meanings, too.

Shifting physical position

Everyone’s body constantly seeks to stay in a state of comfort. And when someone’s body is out of that state, they exhibit behavior in an attempt to restore their body to that state.

Thus, when someone begins to fidget, rub their arms/hands, touch their face, etc., they may be displaying signs of uneasiness.

Never discount someone’s body language and nonverbal cues. By noticing such signs, you can glean insight into how someone feels about a particular offer you have made or what the individual thinks about their situation. There will be a wealth of hidden insights to glean from that, which you can use to increase your leadership skills.


People will follow a leader when they believe that person has good intentions and good leadership skills. To increase the perception of your good leadership abilities, you must become a better negotiator. And you can accomplish that by utilizing the information presented in this article. Doing so will enhance your communications and dealings with others, and that, too, will increase the perception of you as a good leader.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Greg Williams, “The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert,” is a Harvard-trained negotiator with a richness of 30-plus years of negotiation and reading body language experience. Williams has taught negotiation and reading body language skills to people worldwide. He is an accomplished author, speaker, trainer and a recognized worldwide thought leader on negotiation and reading body language.

Global Gurus has double-ranked Williams 8th in negotiation and 17th in body language worldwide. He is also a member of the famed Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches — individuals who coach such people as Serena Williams, Richard Branson and other well-known world-recognized public figures. Greg Williams is a TV contributor, has written seven books about negotiations and reading body language and is currently writing No. 8.

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