A proper hand­shake can seal a busi­ness deal. It can also clinch a rep­u­ta­tion

BC Business Magazine - - Contents - by Steve Burgess

In a world that cap­tures your ev­ery move, hand­shakes mat­ter

There are a cou­ple of time-hon­oured strate­gies for deal­ing with busi­ness part­ners, clients and the public. One is to treat oth­ers with re­spect, ex­pect­ing to be treated the same way in re­turn. An­other is to es­tab­lish your author­ity via dis­plays of dominance.

There is no doubt which ap­proach Nina Du­rante favours. As founder of the So­cial Graces In­ter­na­tional Eti­quette con­sul­tancy in Van­cou­ver, Du­rante is a lead­ing pro­po­nent of the golden rule in daily in­ter­ac­tions. But the cur­rent oc­cu­pant of the White House of­fers a com­pet­ing ex­am­ple, and the pres­i­dent of the United States is al­ways going to be in­flu­en­tial.

If you choose to take the high road, bully for you. It's all very well to be on your best be­hav­iour, but what do you do when faced with some­one ap­par­ently in­tent on ag­gres­sion and dom­i­na­tion?

World lead­ers of­fer an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of how body lan­guage re­veals char­ac­ter, Du­rante says. “You only have sec­onds to make a strong first im­pres­sion, and body lan­guage is the pri­mary fac­tor in that im­pres­sion, fol­lowed by tone and, fi­nally, the ac­tual words spo­ken.”

In our busi­ness lives, chances are our be­hav­iours and body lan­guage won't be an­a­lyzed over and over again by the me­dia, Du­rante notes. But es­pe­cially in the world of so­cial me­dia and cell­phones, where ev­ery ac­tion can be caught on cam­era and posted for ev­ery­one on the planet to see, now more

than ever we need to be aware of what our ac­tions are say­ing.

Mas­ter­ing body lan­guage is all about body aware­ness, Du­rante says. “Your pos­ture, eye contact and hand­shake. Stand and sit erect; have your chin up with your shoul­ders back,” she ad­vises. Hands in your pocket and folded arms can send the wrong mes­sage.

Du­rante knows of at least one com­pany that makes a prac­tice of ob­serv­ing the body lan­guage of job ap­pli­cants not only dur­ing in­ter­views but in the re­cep­tion area be­fore­hand. “They be­lieve this will give them an un­der­stand­ing of how a po­ten­tial can­di­date would rep­re­sent their com­pany when the boss isn't look­ing,” she says.

A com­mon bit of ad­vice is to avoid the limp-fish hand­shake—of­fer­ing up your flac­cid ap­pendage to be squeezed like an over­ripe plum. Firm grips are al­ways pre­ferred. But how far do you go with that? Once again 2017 has pro­vided us with a cau­tion­ary ex­am­ple by way of the White House. Among Donald Trump's favourite tricks is an ag­gres­sive hand­shake in which he seems to yank the re­cip­i­ent to­ward him.

“This is a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of how body lan­guage can speak louder than words,” Du­rante says. “The world isn't talk­ing about what Pres­i­dent Trump is say­ing in th­ese greetings.”

How does one deal with this sort of be­hav­iour po­litely? When you know such a tac­tic is com­ing, you need to prac­tise your re­sponse. “Have some­one role play to give you an idea of the feel and how you need to re­spond so that your ac­tions demon­strate that you are calm, strong and able to hold your own.”

But don't overdo it. Newly elected French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron an­tic­i­pated Trump's tac­tic and gripped his hand so tightly their knuck­les turned white. “This en­counter was a text­book ex­am­ple of what not to do from an eti­quette per­spec­tive when shak­ing hands, from both par­ties,” Du­rante says. “The white knuck­les went too far and, in my opin­ion, showed ag­gres­sive as­ser­tion in­di­cat­ing bat­tle in­stead of a calm, pow­er­ful con­fi­dence.”

Can there be a mid­dle ground be­tween al­low­ing one­self to be bul­lied and show­ing ag­gres­sion in re­turn? Very much so, says Du­rante, cit­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau's visit to the White House. On his first meet­ing with the pres­i­dent, Trudeau re­mained bal­anced by brac­ing him­self on Trump's right shoul­der. In their sec­ond en­counter, Trudeau con­trolled the hand­shake and was the first to dis­en­gage. “Both times Trudeau was calmly assertive and wasn't over­pow­ered by Pres­i­dent Trump's ag­gres­sive hand­shake,” Du­rante says. “A very classy way to demon­strate strength.”

Ul­ti­mately, Du­rante in­structs, you can only do you. “Re­mem­ber that your body lan­guage says so much about you,” she says, “and the ac­tions of oth­ers say so much about them.”

And with that I of­fer you a damp and squishy hand of farewell.

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