The Significance of a conscious handshake

When we speak of body language one of the most recognizable is the handshake. Handshake small
Used in business as well as among friends, this is one of the most accepted forms of inter-human communication. As it it so common very few have considered how much information is available just from shaking someone’s hand.

A number of years ago after a lengthy negotiation, a prospective client and I had arrived at an agreement to buy a rather large business software package. The negotiations had been tense and it was obvious that he was trying to wring as many extras out as possible.  The letter of intent had been added to and subtracted from so many times that it now looked like another document. Yet after addressing each and every point, it seemed as if all were satisfied. As I was leaving we shook hands and during the handshake we both heard and felt a distinct ”pop” in his wrist. His facial expression seemed to be one of being ”caught” at something and this handshake had a completely different character than when we shook hands to start the meeting. In that moment I felt a strong sense that the deal would collapse. Sure enough, the next day I get a call and he revealed they would be choosing another supplier. Since that handshake I have always consciously shaken hands. In doing so I have learned, ”first hand”, how much information is available when we stop and observe, sense this common process.

When was the last time you shook hands with someone consciously feeling what was happening in your hand and his/hers? From now on make a conscious effort to notice:

  • Is your hand is being crushed or are you having trouble holding on?
  • Do you hold a live vibrant hand or a dead, limp fish-like hand?
  • Is it bone dry and cracking or moist and sweaty?
  • What is the temperature of his/her hand, how about yours?
  • Is your arm being shaken violently or is it anchored to concrete?
  • Are you being pulled towards or pushed back from the other person?
  • Is the hand soft and receptive or hard and calloused?
  • Are all fingers together or are one or two searching for somewhere else to go?
  • Can you disengage the person when you choose or are you being held hostage?
  • Do you have direct eye contact or are one of you looking away?

Each and every one of these situations and many others contain information regarding what kind of person you are meeting and the immediate circumstances. The more you can open up to all these signals the more information will be available. Much is being said about you, the person you are shaking hands with and the relationship being created between you. The question is are you paying attention?

Remember, each individual is different.
Each one of the above signals can have either a common or special significance depending upon the person you are meeting and what kind of mood they are in. Much has to do with how present he/she is during the process. For instance, when shaking a politician’s or public figure’s hand, you may feel like you are one of 100 people in a long line, even if you are the only one there. People in public life have often become so used to shaking hundreds of hands that they automatically push your hand aside to grab the next one, even if there isn’t one there. How does that assembly-line kind of treatment make you feel?

”Respect means I understand that I have no understanding of who you are” Yoshi Gasaki, Aikido Master.

As a leader, shaking someone’s hand is a great opportunity to demonstrate respect and create a strong foundation for a thriving relationship. Here are some tips to leave a powerful impression in someone else’s hands:

  • Relax and become aware; feel what you are feeling
  • Become even more present to your feelings by breathing slowly, deeply and joyously
  • Soften up your body and your hands, see how much more you are able to feel.
  • Present your hand in a straight forward, direct approach instead of giving the impression you are looking for a place to land a plane.
  • Grip the other hand firmly, joyously and think service.
  • Sense from their hand how firmly you should squeeze by observing how strong their grip is and copying it.
  • Look the person in the eye and make sure they feel seen, heard and felt.
  • Soak up all the information you can from the handshake and the body language of both yourself and the person with whom you are greeting.
  • How much of yourself are you offering: your hand, wrist, arm, elbow, upper arm, shoulder, torso, body?
  • Say a few appropriate words with a deliberate and appropriate shake of the hand while noticing the source of the movement in yourself and the other. Then relax and observe any response.
  • Dance with what the other hand is doing while beginning to look for an appropriate place to begin disengaging.
  • Disengage your grip consciously and deliberately, yet gently.
  • End your conversation when the handshake is over so the process feels complete
  • Leave the other person’s presence with a warm smile

This may seem a much to do about nothing, but according to most every executive I have done this exercise with you will notice a wealth of new information. Moreover, the more you can instill consciousness in your handshake and transfer that feeling to others, the more yours will stand out as someone special to those who encounter your hand. Try doing that with a text message!

If learning about and practicing the significance of a handshake is something you believe your skills as a leader will profit from, we urge you to check out our Sensational leadership workshop series. If you are interested in developing a conscious touch and increasing your health and well-being you may want to check out the Body Harmony Workshop being held in Stockholm on 15-18 June.


About The Author


I am fascinated with what makes us humans ”tick”, especially when it comes to how we consciously communicate and express ourselves with our body language. My business background is in international sales and sales management, selling everything from automobile tires in Houston, Tx, to retail banking delivery systems in 20 countries. I have graduated from CoachU’s 3 year Coach Training program, been certified as an Extended DISC consultant and become a Certified International Body Harmony Teacher with over 20 years of ”hands-on” experience in bodywork. This rich and varied background combined with over 20 years of being an entrepreneur has blessed me with insights and experiences I never would have noticed in the corporate world. Mainstream business now seems to be waking up to the riches available from more conscious and responsible business practices. Expanding Understanding’s Sensational Soft Skills Toolbox , the books I have written and training I have developed now provide savvy decision makers and their colleagues measurable results and a more restful night's sleep. These tools provide an edge in consciously understanding, deliberately using and profiting from the most powerful communication tool available, our bodies. I look forward to meeting you on this path to mastery in non verbal communication.

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