(Third of a series)
Nonverbal language or body language is a powerful component of the communication cycle as it can help you understand your subject’s internal responses as well as his external behavior. Plenty of information about your subject’s outlook and mindset can be elicited from his nonverbal expressions and gestures.
In today’s post we are going to focus on the handshake, arm gestures and other types of hand gestures that people frequently use.
What’s in a handshake?
The handshake is one of the oldest gestures in human history. Ancient Romans used to shake hands and arms to show that they were not hiding blades and other weapons.
Holding another person’s hand is a universal gesture for union or solidarity. If performed correctly and in the right situation, a handshake can win over a new acquaintance fairly easily.
Believe it or not, handshakes convey different messages depending on how the handshake was performed:
- Dominant Handshake
A dominant handshake takes place when a person reaches out to the other person with his palm facing downward. People of authority often make the mistake of performing the dominant handshake as they like reminding people that they are in charge.
However, if your intention is to get along with the other person and eventually influence him, a dominant handshake will not help.
This type of handshake instantly transmits a negative vibe to your subject and he may even feel threatened by your presence. Remember: a cautious subject is more resistant to new ideas or to requests.
- Submissive Handshake
The submissive handshake occurs when the person reaching out purposefully opens his palm and points it upward, like he was receiving a piece of bread.
Submissiveness, like dominance, is not helpful in the context of effective communication because it gives your subject the false idea that you are there to passively accept ideas.
A subject who thinks you are submissive may try to control the dialog and gain all possible benefits from the encounter.
- Equalizing Handshake
The equalizing handshake is the best handshake because it sends a message that you are an authority but at the same time, you are willing to interact respectfully with your subject.
You can perform an equalizing handshake by gripping the other person’s hand in a straight fashion so that your palms are almost perfectly parallel to each other.
You may also perform an equalizing handshake if your subject is trying to perform a dominant handshake or submissive handshake.
You may feel tempted to acquiesce to a submissive handshake but this is not the best way to shake someone’s hand as a submissive subject may also be resistant to new ideas.
Instead, you should send the message that you both have equal footing during the interaction.
What are common arm and hand gestures and what do they mean?
People frequently gesture with their arms and hands, especially if there’s something on their minds that they can’t quite express with words.
Paying attention to this type of body language can help reveal your subject’s true internal state.
- Rubbing the Palms
Palm-rubbing behavior signifies excitement or anticipation. Normally, a person would be vigorously rubbing his hands if he is expecting a huge benefit to come his way. Slower hand-rubbing means some of the benefit will be shared with another person.
When you rub your thumb, you are instantly expressing the desire for cash or money. Sales staffs often use this gesture to indicate savings or discounts.
However, this gesture is not very professional and should be avoided if you are in a formal dialogue with someone, especially if that someone is an administrator or manager. You may come across as someone who is preoccupied with money and no one likes to deal with such a person.
- Connected Hands
When a person clenches together his fingers to connect his hands, he may be communicating any of the following:
– “I’m listening”
– “I’m satisfied”
– “I’m angry”
The position and rigidity of the hands indicate the subject’s general outlook. If you see your subject clenching his hands together in any fashion and he looks tense, there’s something wrong.
Making a direct inquiry can help erode this internal resistance so you can get to the bottom of your subject’s hidden objections.
- Hands in Front/Hands at the Back
When a person holds his hands together in front, he is signaling that he is uncomfortable or unsure with the current situation.
Uncertainty, worry and anxiety all contribute to the use of this gesture. A person who uses this signal is effectively barring access to his private parts which is considered a most vulnerable point in the human anatomy. Inversely, a person who puts his hands at the back is expressing confidence.