Body Language Lessons from Pawn Stars

I’ll admit it. I’m hooked on the History Channel show Pawn Stars.  And since I’ve been watching it so much, I’ve noticed some interesting body language strategies that Rick and The Old Man use when they’re negotiating that I thought would be worth bringing to your attention.

In negotiations there is an important tactic that some trainers call “the flinch.”  When you hear a price offered for something, you are supposed to ‘flinch,’ or show that you think that price is too high.   In the negotiation seminar I attended years ago, the precise nature of the flinch was left undefined.  It was just assumed that you would have to use a little acting to convey your displeasure at the price offered.  But if you watch Pawn Stars you will notice a few important things.  First, Rick and The Old Man are masters at this tactic.  Second, they use it ALL the time.  And third, they seem to break it down into a system.

Watch the show a few times and notice how often they repeat this pattern.  As soon as the seller says what price he wants,  The buyer, either Rick or The Old Man, will break off eye contact.  Then he’ll start to shift from open body language to closed, either by dropping his head or crossing his arms, or both.  As he does this, he’ll frequently back up a few inches.  You will see this specific pattern the majority of the time either of the two principles ‘flinches’ at a price.

I have no idea whether the two planned this pattern or whether they just adopted it instinctively, but from a body language perspective it’s almost perfect.  Three of the most important elements of the body langauge that shows interest and approval are direct eye contact, open body langauge, and close proximity.  If you want the person you’re speaking to the feel that you care about what he’s saying, like him, and want to hear more, you do these things.   If you use these behaviors you will create feelings of trust and rapport in the person with whom you are speaking.  When you suddenly do an about face on those same behaviors the person you are talking to instinctively feels, for lack of a better word, rejected.  It’s an understanding that happens not only on an intellectual level, but also an emotional one. 

Proof of the effectiveness of this process is easy to find.  Notice how good Rick and The Old Man are at ‘flinching’ compared to either of the two sons.  The sons frequently don’t even flinch at all, and when they do, their body langauge often betrays a sense of their continued interest.  Now notice how much more successful Rick and The Old Man are at negotiating a lower price than either of the two sons.  I suggest that much of their negotiating skill lies in the sense of authority they convey by their perfectly executed ‘flinch.’

You do not have to be a professional negotiator to put this process into use.  Try it the next time you buy anything, or the next time you’re asking for a raise.  I bet you’ll find it works just as successfully for you as it does for them.


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