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Body Language – Handshakes

Posted June 02, 2014, at 9:23 a.m.
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Shaking hands comes as such a normal thing to do. But why do we do it? Our ancestors greeted one another with outstretched arms and open palms to show that they do not carry weapons. Nowadays, people usually do not carry concealed weapons and handshaking is a gesture of cementing agreements, offering welcome and bidding someone farewell. Also, from a single handshake we can tell if a person is self-confident, nervous, stressed or insecure.

Making the first move. It is customary to shake hands at the first meeting but the important question is who should make the first move. If the other person is uncomfortable in your presence, you should not be the first to offer hand. When you show up somewhere uninvited, wait to see if he/she extends his/her hand in welcome. After seeing that the hand is not being reached to you, just give a small nod. The question that is also often asked is whether a man should first extend a hand to a woman or needs to wait for her to make the first move. The woman should extend her hand first to show that she is comfortable to shake hands.

Equal and vertical. This is the most common position of hands while greeting, in which neither person dominates. It is non-threatening and relaxed.

Dominance and servitude. If you want to dominate in comparison to the person you shake hands with, your hand should be facing down in the handshake. Slightly turning your palm down is a sign of dominance. If you need to gain control while handshaking, you should take your other hand, put it over the dominant one and straighten the hand position. This will mean that you are in charge.

Soft handshake. The common view of a weak or soft handshake is the sign of a submissive person and lack of confidence. In this case, it usually goes along with avoiding eye contact. However, there are multiple reasons for soft handshakes. One of the reasons can be the person’s profession, like surgeons and pianists, who need to guard their fingers. Very strong people sometimes offer a soft handshake as a way of highlighting their physical power.

Two handed handshake. By using both hands while handshaking, you increase the amount of physical contact. This handshake can be excessively physical and domineering so it should only be used if you know the person well.

Squeezer. Probably the most annoying way of handshaking for most people is the squeezer’s way. People who squeeze your hand so hard it hurts lack social skills and have an overly aggressive attitude to compensate for many of their shortcomings.

“The hand stealer”. If you have ever wondered how long a handshake should last, it is no longer than 3-4 seconds. Longer than this is too intimate for a handshake. Nevertheless, there are people who do not know when to stop. After they take your hand, you have the impression that eternity has fared since the beginning of the handshake. The hand stealers in this way make it clear that they have control over you.

Useful resources:

http://www.ecellulitis.com/health-news/body-language-you-might-be-missing-out/

http://www.matchettgroup.com/latest-news/what-does-your-handshake-say-about-you/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201001/body-language-the-hands

http://en.allexperts.com/q/Ancient-Classical-History-2715/f/Roman-handshake.htm

https://www.inkling.com/read/dummies-body-language-elizabeth-kuhnke-2nd/chapter-9/analysing-handshakes

http://www.businessballs.com/body-language.htm#legs-feet-body-language

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