When the President of USA, Donald Trump, and the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, met the first time in Brussels, they shared a tense handshake that seemed more like a duel than a warm and welcome greeting. Macron did not let Trump’s hand go, even after Trump’s knuckles turned white. It should come as no surprise that there is more to a handshake than just an innocent greeting. A perfect handshake sends the message you want it to and has a symbolic meaning especially in politics and business.
So what were they trying to display through these handshakes?? Was it about who is the stronger leader or who commands more respect? Macron stated afterwards that his handshake style was a moment of truth where he felt he had to show Trump that he would not make any concessions, even seemingly small symbolic ones. Macron’s goal was to gain respect with the unusual firmness of his hand, and to do so he used the ”bone crusher”.
FROM THE BONE CRUSHER TO THE IDEAL
There are many different types of handshakes, each distinct in its characteristics, and each portraying something different about the owner of the handshake. The following are the more common handshake styles; find yours and make sure you’re saying what you’d like with your natural style:
• The Bone Crusher – The bone crusher is as it sounds, quite firm…too firm, and it can also be a bit painful. The bestower attempts to show the subject of his handshake his dominance and ignores the unwritten rule that you should adjust the pressure of your handshake to meet that of the other. This person often lacks a sense of other’s needs, or he wants to make it clear from the outset that he is not as weak as he looks.
• The Glove – A favored technique by politicians, the glove is when a seemingly normal handshake is about to take place, and then one (or both) of the parties clasp the outside of the other’s hand with their free hand. This type of handshake is meant to convey comfort and reassurance.
• The Push-and-Pull – This type of handshake is all about energy and enthusiasm. While shaking hands one (or both) parties move their clasped hands both vertically and horizontally. This type of handshake shows the other party you’re excited to see them, however make sure not to push and pull too hard; not everyone will share your enthusiasm.
• The Wet Noodle aka Dead Fish – This handshake is all about submission; one allows themselves to be completely overpowered by the other and merely offers a limp lifeless limb. This can either convey weakness, a lack of confidence, or an unspoken statement that you prefer to go with the flow and not take the lead.
• The Lingerer – This is also as it sounds; a handshake that lasts longer than it should. A lack of social skills could be perceived if you practice the lingerer, so try and make sure you’re around the ideal 3 second timeframe.
• The Topper/Flat Palm – Depending on where you fall in this handshake, the top or the bottom, your level of power in the interaction can be inferred. The flat palm will offer their hand, palm facing up, while the topper with offer their hand, palm facing down. The topper is trying to assert their dominance, while the flat palmer is taking a more submissive stance.
• The Ideal – The ideal handshake lasts no more than 3 seconds – any longer can become awkward. The palms of the hands touch and both parties’ thumbs encircle the hand of the other. When gripping, a middle amount of pressure is best – not too weak and not too strong
•The Shoulder Slap – A nice brotherly/fatherly/motherly slap on shoulder followed by a handshake or a hand on the shoulder while shaking hands is a gesture of telling the one you shake hands with is your friend and everything is safe, under control, you have trust, sympathy and are “on the same side”.
• The Half Hug – Starts as a handshake and becomes a hug. This is when you are not totally sure of the intimacy level with someone and first test with a handshake, then the situation turns friendlier and more intimate. This is a friendly, familiar way to greet.
•The Hug – A friendly way to greet someone you know and are friendly with. Not for unknown business people.
•The Cheek kisses – 2 kisses in France, three kisses in Holland. In UK it is only between opposite sex or girl on girl, men don´t cheek kiss. In France everyone cheek kisses. In Europe for everyone, in Scandinavia between friends.
• Fist connect – originally a black, brotherly way to greet. Seldom used in business except when winning in a big way.
Natural or Rehearsed?
If you have just come to find that your natural style handshake is not conveying what you would like, don’t fret! Even if you’re inclined to use the Wet Noodle tactic, you can consciously switch for the Ideal. Macron, for instance, deliberately decided to change his handshake before his meeting with Trump. Your handshake shows the receiver at what level your self-esteem and self-confidence are, so make sure you’re delivering the right message!
Whatever your handshake style, and whether it’s natural or intentional, make sure to avoid sweaty palms at all costs. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a wet handshake. Sweaty palms often point to a certain inner unrest – they arise mainly in stressful situations, such as introductions or important conferences. In these situations the body switches to an alarm mode and empties sweat. Relaxation techniques can help with this, and, of course, you can always discreetly dry your hands on your slacks prior to shaking hands.
It is important to maintain eye contact while shaking hands. A good stable eye contact makes you a trustworthy person. It is really rude not to have all your attention at the person you are shaking hands with, for example shaking hands while looking at the person behind because you perceive them to be more important or interesting. Keep the eye contact with the person you are shaking hands with!!
Why is a handshake so important?
A handshake creates trust and a personal bond. It is often the first physical contact you have with another in professional situations. Through a handshake we can scan and analyse new people within a few seconds. We get an idea of whether the other is stronger or weaker than ourselves, or whether we are dealing with someone who is equal to us. The result of our assessment can impact how we treat the individual, and can positively or negatively impact the future business relationship.
So is your handshake long, sweaty, dominating, firm – or ideal ??