Strategies For Handshaking

Reading handshakes is easy enough – but what if you find yourself in a situation that you would need to shake hands yourself? What would you do?

Body language mastery requires not only fervent practice through regular observation but also practical application of what you’ve learned so far. So if you can now tell a dominant handshake from a handshake that implies submissiveness, what can you do now to provide a benefit to yourself in social situations?

And so I came up with this special section that covers various strategies that you can use to achieve specific goals.

Establishing Rapport with Other People

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Establish rapport with an equalizing handshake

Rapport in simple terms is putting people at ease so that mutual trust can be established immediately. The easiest way to establish rapport is through mirroring. Mirroring can be done through a handshake by matching the strength of the other person’s handshake.

If the other person has a strong grip, you can compensate by increase your grip force as well. There’s nothing wrong with increasing the force of your grip because you are simply matching the other person’s handshake. It is also important to keep your hand as vertical as possible so that your hand will not end up under or on top of the other person’s hand.

In a rapport handshake, there is no dominant or submissive person – there is only a union of equals. If you have to shake hands with different people, you have to quickly measure the intensity/strength of different handshakes and adjust your handshake accordingly.

If you are a man, be extra careful when shaking the hand of the ladies. Anatomically speaking, men’s arms and hands were built for strength. An average man can exert a maximum grip force that can reach up to one hundred pounds if he needs to apply force. You would not want to exert such force on a woman’s soft and fragile hands.

The key here is to immediately measure the other person’s grip strength by using a scale of one to ten. If your handshake has an average strength of eight and the other person has a handshake strength of four, you must reduce your handshake strength a few points to match the other person’s handshake.

Defusing Power Play

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Don’t let power players win over you

If everyone liked the idea of equality among men, power plays would not occur at all. Unfortunately, power plays do happen and sometimes, it is hard to ignore when a person is consciously (or unconsciously) trying to put down other people even through handshakes.

The most common sign that another person was trying to dominate you through a handshake is the palm-down handshake. I know – the palm down handshake sounds rude, to begin with! It can be very rude indeed but some men like using it.

Usually, a power player comes in very quickly, thrusting out his hand. The hand can either be offered with palm completely facing the floor or the hand can be slightly facing the side.

The key characteristic of the palm down handshake is that angle of the palm is so awkward that the other person cannot possibly establish an equalizing handshake or dominant handshake without getting the attention of the power player or other people.

So if you meet someone who thrusts out a hand with palm facing downward, what can you do? Follow these steps:

If the person is shaking with his right hand, move your left leg close to the other person.

As your leg invades the power player’s personal space, thrust forward your right hand and clasp the palm-down hand.

Establish a dominant or equalizing handshake as you move your right leg forward. The right leg becomes the lead leg.

A little explanation about the three steps: when you invade another person’s personal space, any trusted hand automatically becomes weaker because the other person would be taken aback and instinctually, a rigid arm becomes less rigid as the other person becomes alert for any sudden movements.

When you move your leg toward the person, you invade his personal space and you are given an opportunity to reverse the roles. Instead of being the victim of the power play, you become the dominant individual because you suddenly gain the upper hand.

By moving your body in this manner, you are actually mimicking an arm wrestling competition – and the errant power player loses because you were able to think quickly.

The three steps should be done in succession, within a matter of seconds so the power player would not have any time to react at all. Once you have a firm clasp on the power player’s hand, perform the handshake and release his hand. Master reader 1, power player zero.

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The double handshake also defuses a power player

Now another technique that you can use to defuse a power player’s palm-down handshake is by using both hands to shake the other person’s hand. To do this handshake, simply grasp the power player’s hand and then proceed to cover the hand with your other hand as you shake.

There is an instant effect when you do this. Instead of showing you that he’s the boss, you are showing him that you have twice the authority because you can easily cover his palm-down hand when you perform a handshake.

There are times when a person just doesn’t know when to quit a bad habit. If you are about to shake the hand of a person who is known for his power plays, your very last option is the wrist clasp handshake.

Simply grab the top of the other person’s wrist and shake his hand quickly before letting go. As you shake the other person’s hand, note that you have to straighten the hand otherwise you will be forced into an awkward position as you perform the handshake.

This will send a massive shockwave through the power player’s system and he will most likely be stunned once the handshake has been carried. Don’t do this handshake if you are shaking the hand of your boss or someone who has a higher position than you.

Rule of Thumb: The best way to create a powerful handshake that would put you at a dominant or at least equal position with the other person is to offer your right hand first. Approaching from the left is also a good idea.

Important Note: Handshakes are important when meeting new people. Impressions of people are formed within the first four to five seconds and usually these first impressions become lasting impressions especially if the other person won’t be able to see you often.

When you shake hands often and your hands are usually sweaty, do yourself a favor and carry around a handkerchief so you can wipe your ‘shaking’ hand dry. No one likes the idea of shaking hands with a person with cold, sweaty hands. That can really ruin your chances of making a good first impression.

Exploring the Double-Handed Handshake

The double-handed handshake can disarm a power player because it is much more powerful than the palm-down handshake. This handshake is most often used in organizations and companies where people need to establish their rank or position early on when dealing with different people.

When initiated, a complete double-handed handshake is performed in this manner:

Eye contact is first established by the initiator.

The initiator clasps the other person’s hand firmly.

The initiator then places his other hand on top of the other person’s hand.

The handshake commences as the initiator says the other person’s name.

A generic salutation/question is given (i.e. “How are you doing?”)

There is a lot more physical contact when a double-handed handshake is given, compared to a regular handshake.

People of stature and genuine authority use this handshake to get people’s trust and confidence instantly. When this type of handshake is given, the initiator is actually saying that he should be trusted because he is open and sincere.

While this might sound great to someone who wants to appear as credible and trustworthy as possible whenever he meets new people, I should you warn you early on that the double-handed handshake can actually backfire on you if you don’t use it carefully.

Since this handshake requires a lot more contact than your usual handshake, people you barely know might take the handshake negatively. People might become suspicious of your actual intentions. A person who is virtually a stranger might ask himself: what is this other person up to?

So when can a person safely perform the double-handed handshake if he has positive intentions?

You can do this handshake safely if and only if you are at a social gathering where hugging is also common. For example, if you were invited to a class reunion and you see old classmates, you can probably use this handshake without appearing suspicious or overbearing.


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