Watch Handshakes When Negotiating by Greg Williams

What can you learn from a handshake?

What can you learn from a handshake?

When you negotiate, the handshake sets the tone of the negotiation. Handshakes convey nonverbal messages, which can give valuable insight into the character of the other negotiator. Consider what occurs in the 2 to 5 seconds when you shake someone’s hand. Do you take into account his or her grip? Is it firm, soft overbearing, or almost non-existent? What about your handshake—does it convey warmth, sincerity, or that of an antagonist? Below are handshake illustrations and the nonverbal meanings they carry.

  1. Firm handshake: Conveys the intent of sincerity. Be cautious, it can also conceal the attempt of deceit.
  2. Overbearing/bone crushing handshake: Could convey overcompensation for someone’s lack of self-confidence, or a desire to give the impression of control over the other negotiator.
  3. Limp handshake: Usually given by people unsure of themselves, or at least in their current environment.
  4. Four-finger handshake: This occurs when one person grasps the four fingers, rather than the whole hand, when shaking hands. Women who shake the hand of men are the ones who typically use this style of handshake. Since women have smaller hands then men, it’s one way a woman can send the signal: “I’m in control, or will try to be, in this negotiation.” If a man uses this style of handshake, he’s usually thought of as a wimp.
  5. Two handed handshake: This occurs when one negotiator engulfs the other negotiator’s hand in both of his. This handshake can convey dominance or sincerity, warmth, and camaraderie. Take note of what occurs early in the negotiation to determine what the meaning of the handshake was and continue to observe the direction in which the negotiation flows.
  6. Free hand on elbow handshake: This is a sure sign that the negotiator whose free hand is on the other negotiator’s elbow is sending the signal “I am in control”. If both negotiators use the same handshake, they’re both sending the same nonverbal signal of their attempt to gain control.
  7. Free hand on shoulder handshake: This is an attempt to gain even more control than the handshakes described above. This style of handshake is displayed by placing the free hand on the shoulder of the other negotiator, while shaking his hand. If the first negotiator uses any of the above handshakes, the ‘hand on shoulder’ style of handshake will send the signal of ultimate dominance.

To increase your chances of having a strong hand when negotiating, take note of what your handshake and that of the other negotiator conveys. If you can accurately discern that meaning, you’ll gain insight into the other negotiator. From the outset of the negotiation, you’ll have a huge advantage over the other negotiator … and everything will be right with the world.

The Negotiation Tips Are …

  •  There’s a lot of value in being able to convey and perceive the hidden meaning of a handshake. Since a handshake communicates so much information, become astute at determining the real meaning of the handshake.
  • To gain advantages when negotiating, learn the meanings of handshakes and use that knowledge to enhance your negotiation outcomes.
  • Understand a handshake can convey hidden and manipulative meanings. A savvy negotiator can use the handshake to set the stage for a negotiation, that will cast her in the light by which she wishes to be viewed. Be aware, it may not be her real persona.
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