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Facial Expressions: The Ultimate Negotiation Tool


I know we’d like to think a logical thought process goes into most negotiations, but the fact is that emotions play an influential role in them. If you know what your counterpart is thinking and feeling, then you will have an upper hand during the negotiation process.

Experienced negotiators know this, so they’ve taught themselves how to mask their feelings. They control their body language, words, and tone of voice very effectively. Yet there is one place I’ve noticed where even the best negotiators aren’t always in full control: with their facial expressions.

The Secret Is Reading a Person’s Micro-Expressions

As much as we’d like to think we are in full control of ourselves, sometimes there are emotional moments that escape – even just for a second or two. These moments appear within the context of our facial expression.

We all can recognize common emotions when we see them in people’s faces. During a negotiation, you might see a flash of anger or disgust. That tells you it is time to shift gears. You might see fear or surprise – that’s a moment to leverage your position. If you see happiness, then you know you’ve struck gold.

And if you see contempt – that “fake” smile – then you’re in trouble.

The time it takes for an experienced negotiator to recognize an emotion and control it on their face can be as little as 1/25 of a second. Yet if you can catch that flash of emotion, you can be in control of the ultimate negotiation tool.

Here’s How You Can Use This to Your Advantage

When I discovered this negotiation trick, it became my top priority to discover how I could leverage this information to my advantage. It’s not always easy to read a person’s facial expressions, but here’s what I’ve discovered can be successful.

#1. Stay focused on the face. Look your counterpart in the eye. Make them feel a little uncomfortable. Far too often, we watch a person’s mouth instead of their eyes.

#2. Tell your story. If you’re telling a personal story, the emotions your face will show are going to be based on how you feel about those memories. It can be an effective masking technique. Make sure you’re watching your counterpart’s face if they are telling their own story to catch any slip-ups.

#3. Ask about multiple options. You can catch micro-expressions whenever multiple options are presented to you. This will show you which option your counterpart wants you to take, the one they hope you won’t take, and the ones they couldn’t care less about.

There will always be those who can negotiate without letting anything slip. Most people, however, will offer you a clue or two about how they are thinking and feeling if you pay attention to their facial expressions. Their micro-expressions can be what leads you to a great deal.

What have you discovered to be helpful during the negotiation process? Have you tried to read micro-expressions before? Let me know what happened and what you learned from the process. 

How You Can Stop a Personal Passive-Aggressive Cycle


It happens all of the time. There is that one person in a group who is upsetting everyone else. Maybe they show up late all the time. Or maybe they ignore emails. Or maybe they just expect everyone else to clean up after them. Most of the time, you won’t see people outwardly reacting to such a person.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t reacting at all. Many people internalize their anger and frustration when this happens so it is kept from being out in the open. As that anger festers, however, it needs to have a release at some point. This is how the passive-aggressive cycle begins.

The symptoms of being passive-aggressive can be as mild as a sarcastic response to extremely hurtful actions. Instead of creating such a negative cycle, you can stop passive-aggressiveness before it requires a release. Here’s how you do it.

#1. Evaluate the situation. What made you upset in the first place? For many, passive-aggressiveness begins when it feels like someone else is trying to take away your personal power. They’re invading your boundaries. So ask yourself this: will you be angry about what has happened next week? If not, then choose to let the anger go.

#2. Summarize the problem. Why is it that the actions which have triggered you are so bothersome? Sometimes the roots of our anger have grown quite deep. Childhood trauma, religious teachings, personal bias – they can all affect the levels and depth of our passive-aggressive responses. We must honestly summarize the feelings which triggered the cycle in order to stop it. It’s usually not the person, but an accumulation of internalized feelings that causes us to spiral out of control.

#3. Connect the feelings to your response. We always have the chance to make a choice. We choose to be passive-aggressive. We choose to let things go. We choose to let anger fester. When we can connect the feelings to our triggers that cause us to lash out, then it becomes easier to recognize and avoid situations and people who create such an internally toxic environment – often through no fault of their own. It’s not about them in most cases. It’s about you.

#4. Explore alternative outcomes. Instead of being sarcastic with someone, what is another way you could respond to them? Could you walk away? Could you give them an honest answer? Maybe you could tell them that you didn’t appreciate their actions? When we explore more acceptable ways to respond than what passive-aggressiveness can provide, then we are giving ourselves a chance to improve our future.

#5. Practice the best alternative. Stand in front of a mirror and practice saying an alternative response. Or practice walking away from a difficult situation with a trusted friend, co-worker, or loved one. Bring a journal with you if writing down your feelings and thoughts is your alternative to letting anger and frustration fester. If you can practice this skill once per day for just 7 days, you’ll be able to have it available as an option when the next frustrating event takes place.

Dealing with passive-aggressiveness is more than just learning a new coping skill or trying to return yourself back to “normal” functioning. Unless each of us can clarify the events which cause us to enter a passive-aggressive cycle in the first place, those negative spirals will never really stop.

Take a moment, be honest with yourself, and think about why you react when someone makes you angry and frustrated. Then implement these steps to stay in better control.

Have you used these steps to help you stay out of a negative passive-aggressive response? Did it help? Was it challenging? I’d love to hear your perspective about how helpful these steps happen to be.

What It Means To Actually Listen To Someone


The average person believes that they are a pretty good listener. Some of this attitude comes from self-confidence. I’ve also found that many people feel like not talking when others are speaking, being aware of your non-verbal communication, and be able to specifically repeat what has just been said qualifies them as being a good listener.

Unfortunately it does not.

What does it mean to actually listen to someone? In short, good listeners are actively involved in the conversation instead of sitting on the sidelines. The goal isn’t to be a parrot who can repeat something. The goal should be to understand without a doubt the other person’s perspectives and opinions that are being offered.

Understanding is very different from repetition.

How can me make sure we understand more and repeat less of what someone tells us? Here are are few tricks that I’ve found which help me to stay engaged with the listening process.

#1. Listening doesn’t tear others down. Even when there’s a contrary opinion, good listening must have respect for that opinion. Far too often, and I’m guilty of this myself, there’s this need to interrupt someone because we feel they are “wrong.” We’ve got to step into the other person’s shoes and determine why they think they are “right.”


#2. Listening is about asking questions. Good listeners don’t just sit back and do their best bobblehead impression. They are actively asking questions when they’re not sure about what they have heard. Listening is a two-way conversation that requires dialog to go back and forth. Sometimes it may be necessary to be passive, but even then, I’ve found that at the end of the dialogue, it’s better to go back and ask questions then get up and leave.


#3. Listening is still about repetition. It’s just not the word-for-word repetition many people seem to think it is. The goal of listening is to make sure you’ve understood the exact point the other person or people are trying to make. I’ve found that for this process to be effective, I need to start with a phrase like this. “What it sounds like you’re trying to say is this…” and then I offer the impressions received from the dialogue. Then I end it with, “Does this mean we’re on the same page?” If not, the incorrect impressions I received can be adjusted for better understanding.


#4. Listening helps each person involved become better. Listeners will invariably provide meaningful feedback when a conversation is over. The trick here is that you can’t just jump into the middle of a conversation and attempt to solve problems because you think you’ve got solutions. I’ve found it is much easier to wait until the conversation has been completed to begin the solutions process because then all parties can be involved in finding the right answer. It’s cooperative instead of combative this way.


Listening is a skill that we can all develop. As long as there is a willingness to become active within a dialogue, there is an opportunity to practice these skills.


How do you feel about actively listening? Can you share a listening success story? I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and comments about what listening means to you.

Why Taking Your Time With a Decision Is So Important

When there’s a decision to be made, the natural response is to make it quickly. We want things to be as perfect as possible. We want to correct problems right away. The only problem is that a fast decision often ends up being the wrong decision.

At least it has been that way for me.

Of course there are times when a fast decision must be made. You don’t want to stand in front of a car speeding at you in the crosswalk. You’ll either go one way or the other quickly to get out of the way, right? You won’t just stand there and debate which way of escape has better long-term merits as you get thrown into the windshield of the vehicle.

In the business world, we must focus more on the long-term merits a decision may provide. Instead, and I count myself included in this, we take the emergency approach to decision-making because we settle for the short term benefits.

The Difference Between Confidence and Skill

The reason why we settle for the fast answer so often is because of our confidence. We’ve had success before and we know that we can have success again. The only problem is that these causes you and I to believe that we already know everything.

Fate has a funny way of proving that perspective wrong.

As we gain experience in what we do professionally, we gain confidence. We assume that this means we’re also gaining skills, but this isn’t necessarily the case. We also become afraid of three little words: I don’t know.

Strangely enough, the group of people who tend to make the best and most consistent decisions over time are those who are willing to admit that they don’t know something. That admission forces them into what I call “research mode” so strategic thinking can happen.

In other words, confidence helps with survival. Strategic thinking skills help create better long-term decisions.

Take Your Time and Don’t Be So Sure About an Outcome

When mistakes happen, it’s not because there was a lack of skill or experience. It’s because there was too much overconfidence. Sometimes it is better to slow down, assume that you’re not sure about the circumstances of a decision that needs to be made, and approach the situation as if it was the first time you’d ever encountered it.

What separates the good from the best is the ability to apply that mindset on a consistent basis. I know it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you know what is best. Maybe you do. But what happens if you do not? What risks will you face needlessly because a fast decision was made instead of a good one?

I’ve learned to slow down. To not treat every situation as if it were a life-threatening scenario. Even when my gut instinct is to go in one direction, I slow things down to openly and honestly examine the other solutions that might be in play. Sometimes I go with my gut. Sometimes I’ve discovered better solutions by going against my gut instincts.

In doing so, the short-term and long-term needs I have can be met.

How do you approach the decision-making process? I’d love to hear about how you slow down the process to ensure you’re taking the best possible solution out of every scenario.

When You Must Deal With a Liar, Here’s What You Do

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment: we all lie. The average person will tell at least one or two lies every day. There are no exceptions to this rule, but there are some people who tend to lie more often. People who are in a position of negotiation will lie half of the time if they have a motive or opportunity to do so.

But it doesn’t take a negotiation to encourage a lie. It’s done so that the upper hand can be obtained. I know it feels great to hit someone with a zinger they don’t expect, even if it is a lie. Afterward, however, the lie doesn’t feel so good. Because of this feeling of regret, the assumption is made that everyone has that feeling.

They do not. So instead of trying to get better about finding out what is a lie, I’ve decided to work with liars on a different level. Here’s what I do.

#1. Encourage sharing. People want to feel like they’re equal to one another. That’s why when someone shares a secret, others also want to share their own secret as well. That sharing process helps to level the playing field. I encourage sharing by offering specific and unanticipated information to the other person or party. This creates a transparent response and reduces the likelihood of a devastating lie coming up later on.


#2. Ask good questions. I consider myself a pretty honest person. I’m not going to go out of my way to lie. I’m also not going to go out of my way to divulge information to someone who may not need it. A lie by omission is still a lie, no matter how we might try to justify it. In order to get the complete story, I’ve found that pessimistic questions tend to elicit a more honest response. Many people find it difficult to negate a true statement that is offered in the form of the question.


#3. Listen for an answer. Ever notice how a politician will receive a question about their thoughts on taxes and wind up discussing something about foreign policy instead? Dodging a question is a skill that some have become experts at doing during a conversation. This is a tough lie to detect because many listeners don’t notice a dodged question. Instead of being impressed by an eloquent sidestep, listen for an actual answer to your question. If you don’t get one, then do what I do – ask the question again.


#4. Stay away from privacy concerns. It’s important to have privacy, but I’ve found that discussing confidentiality issues can actually cause people to lie more. This is because people become suspicious if all you’re doing is talking about privacy concerns. If you offer a large amount of protection, people are more likely to lie. If you offer no confidentiality, people are also more likely to lie. So if you need to mention privacy issues, do so briefly, but then just move on with your conversation.


#5. Inspect for leaks. The truth we need will often come out in other ways when dealing with a professional liar. We can detect information from the questions they ask, their body language, and even in a joke here or there. When a leak is detected, a savvy liar might have done that on purpose to throw you off. I’ve found that leaks tend to be genuine and honest because they are often mindless.


Dealing with a liar is never fun. This is why I’ve worked to remove as much lying as possible from my life. Yet sometimes there is a need to be involved with a liar in a conversation, a business deal, or in some other way. These are my methods – what are yours? I’d love to hear how you confront lying when you discover it.

9 Conversation Habits of Today’s Most Successful People

There are some people which seem so passionate about success that their love for it seems contagious. You feel like a different person when you’re around them. For me, I’ve learned more from individuals like these than anyone else.

As I started to think about what makes them so successful, I realized that it wasn’t good luck or a specific talent that they have. It’s a certain way that they talk with others. Successful people have certain habits which get included with every conversation they have. Here are some of the cues I’ve picked up upon.

#1. They say “Yes” more than they say “No.”

Being conservative can bring about slow and steady growth. To achieve your full potential, however, it is necessary to take educated risks. You can’t be afraid of failure. If you succeed – great! If not, dust yourself off and try again.

#2. There’s a certain level of gratefulness.

It takes hard work to get ahead in life. Success isn’t just handed to you like it’s a Christmas present. Gratefulness is present because there is a lot of effort behind every footstep taken.

#3. There’s also a certain level of humbleness.

Successful people also realize that they couldn’t have made it on their own. Skills have been handed down from mentors. A helping hand has been extended here and there. Real success comes from a team effort more than an individual effort – though both efforts are important.

#4. “Quit” isn’t in the vocabulary.

Failure is not the same as giving up. When you fail, then you made your best attempt. Do it again. Quitting means you fold all of your cards and let someone else win instead.

#5. There always seems to be some extra time.

If someone needs help, then successful people make time to help. It’s more than just returning a favor or working to expect a future favor in return. It’s about doing the right thing. Everything on a schedule is negotiable. You’ve just got to be willing to negotiate in the first place.

#6. A clear goal is always within reach.

Details are important, but not so important that they delay your work. Reach toward your overall goals and you’ll be duplicating what successful people do in every conversation. Every moment is an opportunity to move forward, even if it’s just a conversation with a cashier at the grocery store. You never know when the next great opportunity might appear.

#7. There’s a plan to fix broken things.

There are no excuses. You might not know what needs to be done at this moment, but you can find someone who does. You can learn from that person. You can work together to solve the problem. Successful people always look to find solutions.

#8. They are always learning.

I’ve found that successful people don’t feel satisfied unless they’ve learned something new every day. They are always on a quest for more knowledge. They ask questions. They seek out wisdom. No question is off-limits.

#9. There is a willingness to share the credit.

Successful people don’t like being in the spotlight. They’d rather share whatever credit is due with everyone involved.

The next time you speak with someone, listen for these components within the conversation. Is there passion and positivity in their voice? Or is there a certain tinge of negativity that you hear? When you can distinguish the difference between these two notes, and sometimes the difference can be quite subtle, you’ll know what people you’ll want to have on your next project.

What traits to you look for when speaking with successful people? I’d really appreciate having you share some of your unique insights on this matter with me. 

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