It’s all in the Handshake, Baby: Authenticity and Non-verbal Clues

Handshake, authenticity and non-verbal clues

With digital overload and limited face to face time, handshakes are more important than ever. In fact, handshakes may be the one and only time you have physical human contact with a potential long-term connection, so fire up those peepers and pay attention!

I put a lot of stock in a handshake because it tells you something much more truthful than the words pouring out of a person’s mouth. A handshake can corroborate or dispel the image a person throws out at you, as much as they can clearly demonstrate different dimensions of a person in a non-verbal context. Most importantly they can give you big insights about someone’s authenticity.

Subtle Clues, Big Insights

Authenticity is big for me; perhaps the most important tool I use when deciding to collaborate with a potential client, business partner or connect with someone as a friend. In order to make clear, solid decisions about personal connections, I run through a few key questions to assess a person’s authenticity through their handshake.

  • Is their hand limp and lax, waiting for you to do all the work?
  • Is their hand strong to the point of squeezing, rather than an actual hand shake, so your palms never fully touch?
  • Do they look you in the eye as they shake your hand, or nervously look in another direction?
  • Do they seem in a hurry to “get things done?”
  • Most importantly, are they able to take your hand with confidence and engage in a real moment of human to human heart connection?

Are there exceptions? Sure! Some people are just shy initially and that might come across in their personal interactions — especially if they spend a lot of time alone. What I’m suggesting is to simply pay attention to that first hand-to-hand connection, and see how it matches up with subsequent interactions. You also might get all the information you needed at first “shake.”

What Non-verbal Hints Really Reveal

Yes, non-verbal communication is by no means a secret, new discovery. But it’s a tool most people don’t utilize fully when initially assessing potential associations. If you tend to be somewhat dense about these kinds of things, let me lay it out for you.

If a person is fidgety and disconnected in their handshake, it’s probably how they are going to act if you collaborate with them, too. If they hurry and rush through your interaction, avoiding eye contact and talking over you, most likely they will talk right over your good ideas and be light on the listening. In contrast, if they are caring, open to new ideas and willing to listen, they are probably warm, friendly and have a firm, yet non-aggressive handshake as they make eye contact with you.

These are just some examples, of course, but I do encourage you to be on high alert to notice anything that might seem off, disconnected or feel awkward. If you can work out the kinks during subsequent contact, great! It’s just that often people miss the initial subtle clues that could have made a world of difference in terms of their choices.

Handshakes in a Digital World

So what if face to face is never a possibility? There are plenty of people I never actually meet face-to-face, but we are able to work together flawlessly or have become good friends. The same initial interaction review points still apply over the phone, video chat or instant message. Unresponsive is unresponsive. Conversation hog is a conversation hog. Distracted is distracted. Delightful, engaged and playful is a good start.

Just spend that little extra effort during the first few interactions to see what you notice. And know that someone is probably doing the exact same thing, right back at ya.

Photo by Cocoabiscuit