By Greg Williams-
Did you see that? That was a micro expression. Do you read micro expressions in your negotiations?
Micro expressions are unfiltered displays of emotion that occur in less than 1 second. They reveal a negotiator’s mindset, which can be used to strengthen a negotiator’s position if he correctly decodes them. Since your opponent’s brain does not have the opportunity to interrupt the display before it’s made, the micro expression discloses the person’s real thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Thus, body language can give us away based on the nonverbal signals we send in the form of micro expressions. In essence, a negotiator is not thinking about how he’ll respond, he just responds.
The seven universal micro expressions that are generic to everyone are fear, anger, disgust, surprise, contempt, sadness and happiness.
Fear is denoted when you raise your eyebrows, open your eyes widely, and slightly stretch or open your lips. Your bottom lip protrudes downward.
When we are fearful of something the reason the eyes widen is because we want to see as much of the environment as possible. In so doing we are able to make decisions based on everything we’re able to glean so we can determine what we should do next.
An angry person has her eyebrows down and together. You will see her glaring, narrowing her lips and flaring her nostrils. You get the message that she is literally glaring at you; she is not happy with either what you’ve done, or something you said.
Keep in mind that her eyebrows would be raised if she sensed fear and lowered when angry. Therein lies the slight way you can differentiate between the two micro expressions.
Disgust is conveyed by lifting the upper lip, almost like if your opponent smelled something foul and he is wrinkling his nose from it. That’s an easy way to detect disgust. His micro expression displays he does not like what he is hearing or sensing.
Surprise is conveyed with raised eyebrows, wide eyes and open mouth. You’ll recall that you can convey fear with raised eyebrows and wide eyes. Fear and surprise have that in common. The open mouth does not necessarily have to be a part of surprise, but you will usually see the raised eyebrows and the wide eyes.
How do you differentiate between the micro expressions of fear and surprise? You watch for more signals when you are not sure what your opponent is displaying. Look for clusters of expressions to validate what you’re seeing.
Contempt is communicated by a sneer; the opponent raises one corner of her lip on one side of her face. Remember these expressions last for less than a second, so you have to be very observant to note exactly what is occurring. Then confirm what has just happened by asking probing questions.
With sadness the upper eyelids appear to be drooping. The eyes are unfocused. The lips are slightly turned down and you will hear a change in tone. Your nonverbal micro expression and your tone are combined to project sadness.
A happy person has a wide-eyed expression – smiles, elevated cheeks, and wide eyes. You’re displaying the gaiety you’re feeling, perhaps at the end of a successful negotiation.
If you’d like to train yourself to recognize micro expressions, act the way you would normally act if you were experiencing the seven universal micro expressions and note your facial features. In so doing you’ll become more astute at recognizing micro expressions at the negotiation table. That will give you greater insight per what the other negotiator is thinking at critical times in the negotiation. That information will prove to be invaluable to you… and everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
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