It’s obvious to most that the extremities of the handshakers are most undesirable with the middle ground making the best impressions. Most people would have experienced at least five of the ten types of handshakes listed here, hopefully being spared of the most traumatic, that is, the ones that cause pain such as the bone crusher or death grip. The worse I’ve ever endured was a combination of a short grabber combined with a bone crusher. Whenever I meet this person I tried to trust forward to get as much finger into this persons hand as possible or try to avoid the handshake altogether! Women also seem to be particularly prone to thrusting just their fingers forward and in turn receive an unwelcomingly firm handshake by a clutch of fingers and palms wrapped around their little fingers. They’d be best served to keep their fingers together and thrust the whole lot forward instead of just the tips.
Ingredients of a good handshake includes raising your hand when about three feet away from the other person, keeping your hand vertical with the thumb pointing upwards, making a firm grip of the other person’s hand, shaking web-to-web rather then finger to web, maintain eye contact and shaking for a maximum of three times then letting go. A firm handshake gives the impression of quiet confidence and says that “I’m happy to meet you” yet portrays a person as having a no “non-sense” attitude. As the other person releases their grip pressure be sure to let go of their hand rather than holding on for longer than necessary. Holding the hand at the completion of the handshake can convey added emphasis and intimacy, but it is also risky. This is especially important in business where first impressions can often set the tone for the entire relationship. Fortunately handshakes are learned behaviours and not inherent making it easily corrected when the proper formula is adopted.
A tongue jut is thought to have evolutionary origins as a food rejection mechanism. We stick our tongues out to show distaste – either for others or even for what we’ve said ourselves.
Pushing the tongue through compressed lips is used to signal a cheeky attitude when done amongst friends, but has a more sinister meaning when done in competitive situations. “Tongue-jutting” is used in this case when people think they have gotten away with something, or have been caught doing something they shouldn’t have. However, in this case the tongue usually is pushed through the teeth and doesn’t touch the lips.
The gesture will be seen at the conclusion of an episode such as signing a contract or winning a hand at poker by bluffing. Most of the time tongue protrusion happens when people feel they haven’t been caught, but sometimes it’s actually because they’ve been caught. The statement reads “I’ve gotten away with this”, “I’m telling a cheeky joke or making a cheeky statement”, “I’ve made a mistake” or “I’ve been caught trying to pull a fast one.” Tongue through the lips or teeth can happen any place at anytime but signals the same thing almost everywhere and that is that a person is doing something that is pushing the envelop of acceptability or has gotten caught doing something that is unacceptable. Obviously if we notice this tongue language we should review what has been said and suspect highly that we’ve been fooled, cheated, that we or someone around us has been made the butt of a joke, or that the tongue protruder has realized they’ve made a mistake.
Titling in the chair is a casual and therefore dominant gesture and the further back one leans in the chair, the stronger the message of superiority. It comes has a similar root to the full body steeple as it creates distance from other’s showing detachment, and also a relaxed or informal attitude. When our boss’s perform this gesture, it can mean several things, he is indifferent to others and their ideas, he is simply adopting a relaxed position on the matter. Caution is order, as context and accompanying dialogue is necessary to verify exactly what this gesture means.
When children are seen doing this in response to being chastised for bad behaviour it is important to quickly correct it or the attitude can snowball. A simple way to fix it through nonverbal means is to encroach on their personal space or by taking a flank or a rear position. This will create uneasiness in them and force them to take a less relaxed authoritative body language stance and might even put them in a ready position with their hands on their knees in preparations to take action hopefully by resolving the issue or serving the punishment. When power plays are used by subordinate people, over time they gain authority, and the last thing you want to do is lose rank with your children as with it goes respect.
Having one leg over the arm rest of a chair is a full on assault to the rest of his company. I use “his” because men are much more likely to use this posture than women. The posture shows aggression, dominance, ownership and an informal attitude. Ownership here can mean simply of the chair, but in a larger context it also means ownership of the situation as a whole, the ideas in the room, and even the people. The sitting position is so informal that it means that a person holding it, cares not about what anyone else thinks.
While, with friends this posture could be acceptable despite its offensiveness, it’s definitely not acceptable during an interview, in public, or when meeting important people. To send the proper message with our legs use a comfortable, yet proper sitting position which is a sign of respect for those around you. Either leave a slight gap between the legs, use the figure-four leg cross (for men only), or us the English style leg cross where the legs lie parallel one over the other. Women should almost universally cross their legs so they lie parallel, even if they are wearing pants but especially if they are not.
The eyes can also signal that someone is closed-off. We turn our heads when we wish to avoid being singled out in a lecture hall or boardroom meeting. To represent a closed attitude we might pull our chins in and tuck our heads down. In theory this is to protect our vulnerable necks from attack so it also indicates and fearful state. When we wish to scold children we make sure they give us full eye contact in order to measures their reaction and to ensure they’ve given us their undivided attention. This trait is culturally specific however, as some parents require that children avoid eye contact precisely for the same reason other parents require it; to show respect for authority.
That being said, a lack of direct eye contact during a conversation is not always to be taken as a negative cue or rejection. Research has shown that concentrating on faces takes a lot of effort so we look away in order to properly analyze what is being said. Looking away is also a signal that we are comfortable with our company because we can safely look away with no risk of being attacked. In other words, looking away shows that we trust those around us. As such, looking away is a “comfort display.” The distinction between rude eye avoidance and a comfort display should be obvious. For example, dropping the eyes in order to focus on picking the dirt from beneath the nails to “preen”, removing lint from clothing while avoiding a topic, or glazing over expressionless in boredom is not the same as looking away during a conversation to focus more deeply.
While this type of eye avoidance is normal and acceptable in casual situations, do avoid it during job interviews as potential employers have noted they prefer candidates to focus on them rather than casting their gaze all over their office as if they own it. In a subordinate dominant situation freely moving eyes leave bad impressions and make potential employees appear disinterested which turn interviewers off.
Hands can show real-time changes in an attitude. Imagine a couple sitting enjoying a romantic meal at a restaurant, with their hands bridging the gap between them as they sit facing one another hand-in-hand. The topic of conversation flows freely, but suddenly switches to a contentious issue, what would you imagine would happen to their hands? When there is disagreement between people, the hands are pulling inward and away from those we disagree with. This sort of behaviour can happen suddenly especially on a heated topic, but can also happen over time on issues that gradually show differences. When total disagreement is present, the body will even be withdrawn where the hands will rest on the lap. Taking the example of the couple above once again, imagine that only one of the two experiences a change in thought to the topic, their hands might remain outstretched in the center of the table and turn palm up as if to offer the idea to their partner as if to try to change their mind. Gradually the other might re-advance to join their hands once again or move them to their lap. As the argument fails, both parties hands might graduate away. If disagreement continues, feet might orient toward the door followed by torsos than finally their heads.
Arms are withdrawn when disagreement is high. These arms are busy protecting the torso in a single arm closed body posture – an ‘incomplete hug.’
Arms withdraw for a number of reasons but our subconscious mind tunes into our flight response and pulls hands in when we fear they will be hurt, and especially when they are hurt. When we touch a hot stove or hear a loud bang, our arms draw quickly into our bodies to protect them. This happens instantly with no ability to stop it. Likewise, our hands come in when we are worried or threatened despite a lack of physical threat. When our arms come in, our minds feel that they can block attacks better even when they are emotional in nature. Hands can be withdrawn for any number of reasons, not just disagreement, such as dishonesty. Honest hands are palm up, offering something to another person, or palm down in a confident authoritative position, but when hands are pulled away, they signal hidden thoughts of disagreement and lack of connectivity.
ONE. The tight lipped smile with low intensity. This smile happens as the lips are stretched across the face and no teeth are showing. The tight lipped smile can vary with intensity as well, and it is directly related to the amount the lips are raise in the corners of the mouth. The low intensity smile has very little upward curl in the corner of the mouth and indicates a hidden attitude or thought, uncertainty, hesitation or lack of confidence. In this smile the lips are stretched toward the ears with no curl using muscles called the risorius. The risorius muscles are unable to raise the corner of the lips. Small babies have been shown to use this smile for all others except their mothers whom they reserve the use of the true smile. This smile is used to placate others or to pose for photographs when we aren’t in the mood. Strangers passing on the street might also use this shallow smile as a form of greeting or acknowledgement. The smile is a feigned or dishonest smile so that others don’t catch on that we actually don’t like them. It might also appear out of nervousness or stressed, so it can appear when meeting new people. For this reason we can call the tight lipped smile the “polite smile.” When the tight lipped smile with low intensity happens in conversation in can serve to negate the previous statement. For example, a man might say about his boss “He’s a great boss, I’d switch companies and follow him anywhere if he left.” and this might be followed by a tight lipped smile serving to negate the comment.
TWO. Tight lipped smile with high intensity. This is a variation on the smile above, yet the corners of the lips rise even further with some teeth showing. The lips are slightly separated, the corners of the mouth are upturned, gaze is steady and warm and the posture is relaxed. We find this smile appearing when meeting new acquaintances, so it’s not a full honest smile, but does show openness to others. The tight lipped smile with high intensity is more appropriate for acquaintances because a full smile is reserved for our friends and family and would only come off as insincere with new company. A full smile around new people would lead them to think “What’s that guy’s problem, he’s grinning like we were the best of friends, yet we just met.”
THREE. The uneven smile. We might see this smile associated with tongue-in-cheek humour or sarcasm. The smile happens when only one side of the face sports a smile and the other side does not. The opposite side may even be down turned or frowning. The uneven smile depicts a frame of mind in which opposite emotions are present. The uneven smile would accompany cheeky humour amongst friends and would crack to show others that sarcasm was intended. We rarely see this expression aside from in the West, since sarcasm is much less common around the world.
FOUR. The upper smile. In this smile, the upper lid is raised to expose only the top row of teeth, but the true significance is that the lower teeth remain hidden. In the upper smile the jaw and teeth remain closed and the message conveyed is of medium pleasure and comes off as insecure. Used car salesman, who beam light from their teeth in this way, will seem to have a hidden agenda.
FIVE. The grin or smirk. The smirk indicates smugness and arrogance. It is a tight lipped smile with the addition of a degree self satisfaction for good measure. A nervous smile often appears like a smirk but they are not to be confused. The smirk has accompanying dominant body language such as head back, shoulders back, open postures along with dialogue riddle with exuberant pride. The smirk will happen too when someone is under direct verbal attack. It’s the sort of face that makes you want to say “Wipe that grin off your face”. Sometimes though the smirk is due to the stress of being put under fire and isn’t always an attempt at questioning authority.
SIX. Broad smile. In this smile the upper and lower teeth are made visible. The gaze is relaxed and the smile is intended to convey joy and pleasure. This is a true smile and not one that is easily faked. The tell tale sign of an honest smile, is the appearance of crow’s feet in the corners of the eyes. Crow feet make it seem as though the eyes are smiling. It is difficult to replicate these smiles without being truly amused or in good company as the muscles are usually out of our conscious control. We should be careful to use this smile, as with all smiles, when most appropriate, as in the wrong context will simply appear insincere.
The opposite to the high blinker is the extended blinker, and whether by accident or by purpose, the extended blinker puts other’s off by showing disinterest and a smug attitude. A normal blink lasts only about a tenth of a second and at a rate of about six to eight blinks per minute. An extended blink can last from two to three seconds or even longer. Try one right now just as an experiment. Close your eyes at a normal rate but hold them closed momentarily and then quickly reopen them. Now try extending the time they remain closed. And finally, image this is done either while speaking or listening to someone else. Naturally, the longer the blink the more salient the message, with several seconds not being out of the question. The extended eye blink will be perceived by others as arrogant and pompous since it comes across as temporarily shutting out the outside world, especially the immediate company. The extended blinker is sending the message to others that what others are doing or saying isn’t worth their energy and thought.
There are two main ways to thwart the extended blinker. The first is to reduce your blink rate or widen your eyes as if staring, and hold more eye contact to try to have them mirror you or put them on edge. The second method is a tiny bit underhanded, but sends a much stronger message. When your partner has their eyes closed, quickly jump to the right or left or move closer. This will have the effect of startling them as they reopen their eyes and found that you have slightly moved! If done well enough, you should expect to have achieved a fear response in them which will naturally create a need for them to hold better eye contact.