“When someone shakes your hand, take note of what their other hand is doing. Their other hand heightens the meaning of the handshake.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert
“During our introduction, I felt uneasy. There was something in his handshake that made me think that he was attempting to project himself as being powerful. I wasn’t really sure what that handshake meant but I knew he was sending me a message.” Those were words spoken by a team member when recalling how he felt at the outset of a negotiation.
Handshakes convey hidden meanings. They are one aspect of body language that people should pay more attention to. They can make you feel powerful, be perceived as powerful, or make you appear weak.
Continue reading to discover the hidden meanings conveyed simply by shaking someone’s hand.
Meaning of Handshakes:
Hand on Top – One hand on top of the other person’s hand
- Normally, the person whose hand is on top is signaling superiority. But, allowing one’s hand to be on the bottom can be a ploy to allow the other person to believe he’s in a superior position.
Hard – One that appears to be overbearing
- A hard handshake can be a sign of attempted intimidation. It can also stem from someone that is naturally strong and unaware of the strength they convey when shaking someone’s hand.
- One’s perception is what denotes the degree that a handshake is strong or overbearing. If you’ve had prior encounters with the other party and have shaken their hand, you have a basis for comparison in the present situation. If you don’t have that comparison, consider what a normal handshake would be like from someone of the same size, gender, and background.
Weak – Lacking power, dainty, gentle
- Weak handshakes convey the exact opposite meaning of those that are hard. Again, don’t necessarily infer that someone is weak because they deliver a weak handshake. It may be the way they wish you to perceive them at the outset of your meeting.
Hand/Arm Jerk – While shaking the hand, a quick movement is made that pulls the hand quickly in a jerking motion in one direction and then pushes it backward in the opposite direction.
- Sometimes, in a playful setting, friends will engage in such banter. In negotiation settings, this gesture is most likely a subtle signal that the one exhibiting it plans to keep the other negotiator off guard. Take note when receiving such gestures and compare it to what follows.
Firm – Not too hard, not too soft, both hands parallel to each other
- In a negotiation, negotiators state through this gesture that they’re equal and respectful of each other.
The person holding the handshake the longest is the one controlling it – they’re stating that they’re not ready to let go. A normal handshake usually lasts for 3 to 5 upward and downward movements. Any more is excessive, which means it’s being done for a reason.
Here’s the rub. Just because someone extends a weak handshake doesn’t make them weak, nor does a strong handshake make them strong. It can all be a ploy. That means you can use this ploy as a tactic in your negotiations.
By understanding the meaning of handshakes, you understand more of what’s occurring. Thus, when someone shakes your hand, you can respond based on how you wish them to perceive you. That will alter the setting of any negotiation. That will also empower you … and everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d really like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com
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