What Makes A Great Handshake? Six Different Types. Which Type Are You?

We have all had times where we have felt a great handshake, and when it just felt down right wrong. Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk about Donald Trump’s handshake to foreign leaders and other American politicians. At times that there are tugs, the open palm, and one hand covering the other hand. What does that all mean? To some, they may not notice the hidden meanings in the exchange, but I wanted to take a deeper look at some of these nonverbal cues and body language.

Listed below are some of the techniques Donald Trump is using. Also, I have shared some of my learnings to make sure that your handshake is a sound, and rememberable.

The Twist of the Wrist

A classic start to Donald Trump’s handshake with his palm facing up, as if he were extending an olive branch of peace. As the person reaches in, and locks hands, he then twists to show a sign of dominance in the exchange. At the end, his palm will now be facing down, which is a control position. This is a sign of authority or superiority. At the end of the exchange with the Japanese Prime Minister, Trump starts off the exchange this manner but keeps it half way. You could actually see the dominance between the two and as they are pulling side to side. Trump later states after his exchange to the press that the Japanese Prime Minister has “strong hands”. Hence, why the handshake may have looked awkward and took longer than it should have been.

The Yank and Pull

The media and press have been having a field day with this one. It’s a power play move to pull the other person into what is called intimate distance (less than arm’s length distance). In this case, it is an opportunity to have the other person off balance and to take control. In the case of Pence and Trump exchange, the pull was so abrupt that it forced Pence to take a step closer to the podium, and Trump stepped back a second time to repeat the exchange. Pence had an opportunity to step in and use your left hand to grasp the foreman or bicep, while shaking hands as this create even a tighter space (reclaiming space) and create an assertive positive dominance stance. The other individual will tend to follow suit. It is simply a case of mirroring the other person actions.

The Hand Hug

This is when you are shaking a person’s hand and use the other hand to cover it. We have seen this many times with Trump, as he will perform the handshake and then wrap this hand over to gesture that they are in good relations with that individual and country (As seen with the Japanese President and Justin Trudeau). You might also see the other person follow suit when both hands are covering each other. In the case of Trump, he does a comforting tap. It is supposed to demonstrate a strong bond between the two individuals and countries. You have probably experienced this with good friends and family. You will see this will family member that haven’t seen each other for a while, which is typically follow up with an embrace.

Those have been some of the keys ones that we have observed from President Trump. Here are a few more to watch out for:

The Strength Test

Have you ever had a person crush your fingers during a handshake? They are taking a dominance position, and trying to demonstrate their confidence and power. Keep that in mind and observe the behavior and dialogue throughout the event. They may be the king in their domain, but they are definitely not in yours.

The Wet Noodle

Cold and clammy handshake is one that you will not forget. It could also be when you really haven’t had that good grip to start off with. This may give the impression that you are weak and less confident. How can overcome this one? Follow one of my favourite techniques “The Do Over”.

The Do-Over

Great for all occasions. It gives you the opportunity to have a reset on that first impression, and interaction. Simply say, “we have to that again”, by looking into the person eyes with a big smile.

Let's review the basics :

  1. Make direct eye contact and smile

  2. Extend hand and ensure that the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger hit the same spot on the other person’s hand.

  3. Grip firmly, or firmer depending if you were just a recent victim of “The Strength Test” to regain your dominance.

  4. Release by going with the flow and sensing the release or a classic two to three pumps.

Too many of us, the understanding of the power a handshake may go unnoticed. A quick review of your own body language and how you present yourself may help that next deal and set the tone for your interactions. Practice with a friend or colleague and see observe what you find in these nonverbal cues.

What was the worst handshake that you received? Or had done? What would you do to change that interaction? Look forward to your responses.

As always, your Yellow Brick Road is waiting. If you are looking for more great articles like this one, please click here or get signed up for our weekly update.

James Amarelo - Founder

Yellow Brick Road - Coaching and Consulting


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