Stefan Speaks

Stefan Speaks


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The handshake is one of the most popular yet overlooked gestures. We all know it’s a signal of greetings and agreement but it convey a lot of other subtle information.

You probably heard the term “he shakes hands like a man” or “his hand feels like holding a dead fish” – we assume a lot by the way someone shakes hands, without realizing it.

It’s also crucial in first impressions since it’s usually the first physical contact between strangers.

So let’s look how attitudes and feelings are shown through different styles of handshakes:

How to show Dominance or Submissiveness in a Handshake

Ever thought about the position of your palm in the hand shake?

Is it on top or under the other’s hand?

If you haven’t, it’s time consider this more seriously because it reveal the kind of hierarchy and feelings present at the interaction.

Just like the palm up shows submissive behavior and the palms down show dominance, the position of your palm during the handshake copies those exact attitudes – in other words, who’s the one in charge and who’s the lackey.

Some of them want to get used by you…”Just like in the song (Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams) this situation reflected in the hand shake, dominant types tend to shake hand with their hand on top – and they will usually reach your hand in that position.

Low self-esteem and submissive types will offer the hand with the palms up.

But what if you want to avoid being manipulated by dominant types who force your hand down?

There are several good techniques to do so, including:

  1. If someone approaches you with the palms down extended arm, you can shake his hand by putting your palm on top of his hand – making you the superior and embarrassing the receiver for presenting his hand incorrectly.
  2. You can shake hands as usual and put your other hand on top of his, creating double handed shake and establishing your dominance.

Be careful not to use this tricks with just everyone because it’s quite a blow to their ego. E.g. you might want to avoid it when meeting the new CEO. I know… a blow to your own ego now that you know it, but sometimes it’s better to let him take the reins and avoid the consequences.

Remember also that showing dominant behavior is not always for the best, you don’t need to prove you’re the biggest dog in the neighborhood. You’re going to antagonize a lot of people if you act always superior.

What if I just want to shake a “normal” hand shake?

If the position of the palms is vertically parallel then there is a feeling of equality and mutual respect.

Ideally, the hold is firm but not too tight; don’t linger with it too much, 1-2 shakes are enough.
Use this handshake most of the time if you wish to establish a healthy and respected relationship.

The Double Hand Shake

The double hand shaking, the favorite of politicians and those who feel that one hand is not enough. On usual terms this handshake represents sincerity and a strong bond between two people.

The “extra” shaking hand can be warped around the other’s hand, wrist, arm or shoulder – the higher the hand the more emotion is being transferred.Holding the shoulder, for example, feels like a mini hug.

This hand shaking, however, is abused by those who want to appear sincere and related to others to win their support. 

Normally you would never shake hands this way with strangers – it involves a lot of touch and you invade their personal space. That’s why you may antagonize strangers with this gesture, making them wonder about your true intentions.

Poor Hand Shakes

Now for some weird and uncomfortable handshakes.

The limp “dead fish” hand – you know this one, after shaking hands with a limp hand you wonder why you bothered at all.

Not a very satisfying hand shake to say the least. Usually it’s interpreted as weakness of character and indecisiveness.

Don’t be quick to judge though, some people have arthritis or other health problems preventing them from a proper handshake. I remember one guy from my school who was known and ridiculed of his poor handshake, but that’s only because he broke his hand twice.

Professions like surgeons and artists are known to keep their hands in good conditions so they avoid strong physical contact with them.

There are also some people that simply not aware of having a weak handshake, if you’re in doubt about yours – ask your friend and relatives.

On the opposite of the limp hand there are people who just don’t seem to know their own strength, or simply like being a little sadist.

These people (usually over muscled males or anyone who wants to appear more macho) just mash your hand to puree when shaking hands. Some of them are not aware of this, some think it’s a “man’s handshake”. To avoid it you can comment about his handshake and tell him to relax it. If this won’t work avoid shaking hands by using the head nod to greet him.


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