The Handshake

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So it would appear that Donald Trump is trying to use his handshake as a dominance play when meeting fellow World leaders and now many of these "allies" seem to be preparing in advance to make statements of their own.

Instead of spending time on preparations for their political and social views, their time seems to be taken up with a very public game of who can pee the highest.

So is that really what a handshake should be about and what do you do if someone you meet tries to dominate a handshake with you?

A History of the handshake

Handshakes began in medieval times. A time when most people carried a weapon of some sort, usually concealed in the hand. The handshake was a way of conveying peaceful intentions. By extending empty hands, strangers could show they were not carrying any weapons and meant no intention to harm. 

This is believed to have developed into the handshake becoming a symbol of good faith when swearing an oath or making a promise. Their handshake was a sacred bond.

The Romans used the handshake to symbolise friendship and loyalty.

By the 1800s it was commonplace to greet each other with a handshake and even etiquette manuals were produced to ensure a proper handshake occured more often than not.

Nowadays handshaking is everywhere. It's part of our lives and the worst thing you can do is the handshake snub. Not shaking someone's hand when they offer it to you is the ultimate insult in today's society.

An infamous handshake snub was reported back in 2011 when it appeared that then French President Nicolas Sarkozy had ignored British Prime Minister David Cameron's outstretched hand following EU Summit talks. The British leader played it down to the press, but could this simple supposed insult have been the catalyst for the eventual Brexit in 2016?

Is Trump scared of the handshake?

Donald Trump has, in years past, described handshaking as "barbaric" and "one of the curses of American Society" stating that it could lead to catching infections.

He also vowed to do everything in his power to not touch a teacher's hand stating "According to a new study they have the germiest jobs, with 17,000 germs per square inch on their desks. That's 10 times the germ rate of other professions."

But it would seem he has now found a solution to his fear of handshaking. Use it as a weapon.

Why use the handshake as a weapon?

Particularly used by politicians the world over. Trump is not alone. Even his predecessor, the usually amiable Barack Obama, has attempted the palm down handshake to try to show dominance.

People in business also try this. They tend to be the over confident ones but they're generally trying to overcompensate for a psychological weakness.


The palm down thrust handshake forces the recipients palm to face up. By doing this the instigator is asserting dominance and stating that they're in control. Sometimes the instigator will pull the arm forcing the recipient into their personal space and even pull them off balance.

The glove handshake using both hands can actually be a very friendly handshake to someone you're very close to. But politicians have made this a favourite trying to show that they are sincere. It usually has the opposite effect and makes the recipient wary. The instigator is also still trying to make it clear that they are in control.

The bone crusher where you totally engulf the other person's hand. You'll see the whites of the knuckles. This is the total dominance play (and the most childish) where the instigator is trying to say they have total power and confidence over the recipient. "Don't mess with me" is the basic message.

How experts deal with a dominating handshake

So, Big Jake is trying to crush your hand into dust. What do you do? Cry? Report him to the handshake police? Kick him in the nuts?

There are tricks to deal with each, although none of these 3 solutions would be my suggestion:

  1. The palm down handshake can be stopped before it starts. When you see Big Jake coming at you with his palm down, just place your palm on top of his. This suddenly makes you superior and embarrasses him for trying to shake your hand incorrectly.
  2. The glove handshake. By putting your hand on top of Big Jake's shoulder and pressing down, you're asserting control and you're also showing him you don't believe his sincerity.
  3. The bone crusher. You need to fight fire with fire! Crush his hand harder.

How I deal with a dominating handshake

If Big Jake comes at me with any of these handshakes I'll just let him do it. I'll look into his eyes and smile. If he's squeezing the life out of my hand I'll smile a bit more, maybe even comment about the weather. 


Because Big Jake has just told me everything about himself. He's laid himself bare. He's shown that he NEEDS to be the main guy and he thinks I'll be happy to play second best. I've seen how weak he really is.

What has he learned about me? Absolutely nothing. He needed a reaction. I've shown him his actions bothered me about as much as the smallest of fruit flies.

The point is I don't really need him. How can I do business with a child? How can I treat anything he says with any seriousness? I've completely written him off.

A handshake shouldn't ever be used as a play of superiority.

A person who wants to be taken seriously in this world will always know the true principles of a handshake. You should be letting the other person know that they are your friend, your equal.

So - make eye contact, hold out your right hand, give a good firm shake and a warm, genuine smile. 



Mark Dwyer is the creator of The £1 Million Challenge and

Helping people find ways to make money from home in their spare time and create their ultimate lifestyles.

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