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Blessed Body Language for Negotiators

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)

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Right Reverend Michael B. Curry
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

Bishop Curry’s negotiating quest pervades every fiber of his being. The confidence he exudes is more than a blessing from heaven above. He is a negotiator with a mission…and so are you.

Knowing Thyself

Negotiators with dynamic demeanors are more than the sum total of their appearance, facial expressions, posture, gestures, movements, eye contact and body rhythms. The ability to effectively communicate wordlessly can be neither contrived nor convoluted. It requires a determined and controlled predictability that takes its power from knowing thyself.

Let the Games Begin

Consider his grand entrance:

Bishop Curry, fully vested in his regalia, processes into the church and garners the rapt attention of every congregation member. He is garbed appropriately for his Sunday morning mission. His carefully planned sermon is a well focused communication of dynamic body language designed to convince his audience of the merits of his message and their part in devoting time to watch, consider and act. Yes, I’ve just described the components of a negotiation, albeit without verbal components.

Consider your grand entrance:

Your appearance reflects an intimate knowledge of GQ or Vogue’s latest fashion recommendations, improved by your personal style. Or you are a 20-plus CEO of a high-tech company sporting a comfortable hoodie and jeans. Matters not. The point is that you are dressed as you deem essential to portray your impressive self.

Body in Motion

The drama of a body in motion ought not be underrated. Without benefit or encumbrance of written notes, the bishop moves up and down the church’s center aisle, arms waving, hands strongly positioned, fingers pointing, as he mesmerizes his flock. His movements do not interfere with his spoken message, but serve to emphasize the most significant points.

You’re seated at the head of the meeting room table, ready to greet folks coming into the room. Consider a standing greeting, a let’s develop a sense of camaraderie before sitting down together to negotiate. How, how much and which parts of your person you deem appropriate for enhancing your communications are personal preferences. I recommend you do what comes naturally.

Traditional body language experts who generalize about particular positions, postures and movements offer clues into human interactions and reactions. However, keep in mind that if you are uncomfortable forming a steeple with your fingers as a sign of thoughtful confidence; it will appear neither thoughtful nor confident. Arms crossed in apparent defiance may simply be a negotiator with a chill trying to keep herself warm.

Face to Face

You have quirks: We all do. Let’s recognize them in ourselves, and forgive and forget those that are not effective in negotiating.

Your demeanor may be stoic or smiling. Your eyes may twinkle with positivity, or your brows may form perpetual lines of thoughtfulness. Your natural inclination may be to cup your chin in your hand with your fingers on your cheek to demonstrate deep concentration. You may fidget to a fare-thee-well, twirling locks of hair, nibbling fingernails or giving yourself relaxing neckrubs — all nervous habits or carefully planned distractions. You be the judge of what to keep, expand and avoid.

Three Commandments of Negotiating

To keep these commandments, keep your body language in mind:

  1. Honor thyself, thy team, thy opponents by keeping eye contact.
  2. Thou shalt not steal, but instead give as many reasons as possible for your opponent to agree with your position. Let your body language show your confidence in what you are saying.
  3. Thou shalt not covet, but negotiate to create a win-win outcome by controlling your own and paying attention to what your opponents reveal with their body language.

Final Note

Every Sunday, Bishop Curry is fully aware of the mission he is striving to accomplish and naturally applies his body language to communicate with his flock. Emulate him — with the body language that comes naturally to you — for negotiating success.

And no matter how well prepared you are for your negotiation, you too may consider saying a little prayer.

JB Shelton Photo
JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton) is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches ‘Reinvent Yourself in Writing’ at Duke University in Durham, NC. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected]. Angel in Your Mirror: Musings from the Curly Mind of JB Shelton-Spurr is available on

Copyright © 2012 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2012  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (November, 2012)