Some people say they can tell a lot about someone from just a handshake. That may be true to some extent. People reveal more than they realize about their personality with their body language. Because of the custom of the handshake in our society, and the circumstances under which it is used, a person's handshake body language reveals more than just the personality of a person, but at times it can reveal something of their frame of mind and intent.
A handshake is a small ritual performed between two people to demonstrate a peaceful intent. It takes on additional significant when it is performed in a business setting, when two parties meet and introduce themselves to each other. Under this circumstance, particularly when the two parties are meeting for the first time, it takes on special significance as each party takes the measure of the other as they clasp hands and look each other in the eye.
There is a second business setting in which the handshake has special significant. It is used between participants when a significant, mutual goal is reached. This could be the finalizing a business agreement, like at the signing of a contract, or agreeing on a price. It is also used when a significant milestone is achieved on a difficult project. The common element in each of these situation is that the handshake is a demonstration of a symbolic bond between the participants.
Obviously, people shake hands in many other situations outside of business. There are many handshakes at social and family gatherings, along with hugs and other shows of affection. But regardless of the setting, the handshake is the ritual greeting employed when meeting someone for the first time or someone you have not seen for while, so there is still an aspect of taking the measure of a person, albeit with a less guarded disposition than in a business setting. With that as the backdrop, take a look at some common types of handshake body language and what they reveal about the person.
The most common type of handshake body language is the equal handshake, where each person extends their hand, palm facing left. The grip is not hard and not limp. This is a handshake where neither party is seeking to assert their will. If you could instill trust in someone with a handshake, this would be the one to use. It demonstrates the intention to act in good faith.
The firm handshake is most often seen in a business or political context. The grip if firm, bordering on too firm. This handshake if often the result of a conscious effort to project confidence. While this does not by itself indicated any ulterior motive, it could be used to mask the opposite of what it is intended to convey, insecurity or deceit. Bear in mind that you should not draw any conclusion based solely on this type of handshake, since it could simply mean the person is in an energetic mood.
The dominant handshake is one where a person extends their hand palm down. This is very likely the handshake of someone who intends to get or maintain the “upper hand.” The dominant hand is offered by someone is feels superior or is the one in authority.
The submissive handshake is complimentary to the dominant handshake. This is where the hand is offered palm up. There are times when you may want to use this handshake, such as when you want to allow the other party to feel in control of the situation, regardless of your pride.
The two-hand hug is the handshake you often see employed by politicians when greeting the public. This is sort of a backdoor dominant handshake where the person extends their hand so that the other person appears to be in the dominant position, but that is then canceled and even reversed when the person using this style then places their other left hand over the persons right hand. This is kind of a double barreled message which says “I am in control, and by the way, I am will serve and protect you.” It is a way of display a kind of “benevolent dominance” without appearing to be a bully.
Another two-handed controlling handshake is the handshake with arm grasp. This handshake is mostly employed by people who see themselves as being in authority. The intent may not be overtly aggressive. I could just be a show of caring. Given that it is invasive of the other persons space, it may also betray an insensitivity to others.
All things being ideal handshake is the equal handshake. It speaks of someone who does not want to manipulate the other person. It is also a handshake body language that will help you instill trust in the other person.