Negotiating Advice

Body Language in Business: Handshakes

Written by Clayton Reeves for Gaebler Ventures

In business and life, people often form an opinion about someone the first few moments of introduction. Usually there is a handshake associated with this introduction. This article will briefly discuss some of the aspects of a successful handshake, and the connotations associated with handshakes in general.

Most people generally feel like a firm handshake is the best kind, and that it generates positive views in those associated with the handshake giver.

Body Language in Business Handshakes

However, there is more to a handshake than simply the pressure applied by the fingers. Also, when too much pressure is applied, there can be a conceived power struggle, especially in men.

Remember that body language gives far greater insight into the actual intents of people than their spoken word. People can become adept at lying verbally much more easily and quickly than they can adjust their actual body language.

Here are two parts of a handshake that can give you insight into what another colleague is subconsciously attempting to do. If you can become skilled at analyzing your negotiating counterpart's handshake, then it will give you the upper hand (no pun intended) when you are dealing with whatever motives this individual may have.

Angle of the Shake

The angle of the shake can give a direct indication of a person's intentions. During the shake, your hand can be at three basic angles. First, there is a dominant handshake where your hand takes the dominant position and their hand faces upward in a show of submission. This is generally used by executives to show dominance over subordinates.

On the opposite side of that is when your hand finds itself facing upwards in a show of submission. This can indicate that you are nonthreatening or unconfident.

There are ways to correct this though, which brings us to the final position. The equality shake involves both hands being positioned vertically and having an equivalent footing. If you find yourself with your palm up, you can simply wrench your hand up during the shake until it is even with your counterparts. This will signify a power struggle and you will exude confidence.

Pressure from the Shake

Most men find that they enjoy a firm handshake and absolutely abhor a limp, clammy handshake. As a general rule, this is true for everyone.

No one wants to shake hands with someone who cannot even grip with their fingers. It signals weakness and overplayed submissiveness. However, sometimes men make up for this by pressing too hard with their fingers and bruising others' egos or hands.

This is most common when a man shakes a woman's hand. Sometimes, rings and other jewelry pieces concentrate the pressure from the shake and exaggerate how hard the person is shaking. If you do this, you can hurt feelings and your reputation amongst the women in the firm. Avoid being too powerful in your shake,

Learning More

Body language in negotiations is a subject that has been researched extensively. These observations are only a basic assembly of the knowledge I've garnered through human study, research and discussion with professors of the trade. I believe the best resource out there is The Definitive Guide to Body Language, by Allan and Barbara Pease. Not only is in genuinely informative, it is also undeniably humorous and enjoyable to read.

When he's not playing racquetball or studying for a class, Clayton Reeves enjoys writing articles about entrepreneurship. He is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri with a concentration in Economics and Finance.

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What was the last handshake you received like? What's your take on the role of body language in negotiations? We welcome all comments, questions and suggestions.

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