Palm Gestures

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OPENNESS AND HONESTY

Throughout  history,  the  open  palm  has  been  associated  with  truth,  honesty, allegiance and submission. Many oaths are taken with the palm of the hand over the heart, and the palm is held in the air when somebody is giving evidence in a court of law; the Bible is held in the left hand and the right palm held up for the members of the court to view.

In day-to-day encounters, people use two basic palm positions. The first has the palm facing upwards and is characteristic of the beggar asking for money or food. The second has the palm facing down as if it is holding down or restraining.

One of the most valuable ways of discovering whether someone is being open and honest or not is to look for palm displays. Just as a dog will expose its throat to show submission or surrender to the victor, so the human animal uses his or her palms to display the same attitude or emotion. For example, when people wish to be totally open or honest they will hold one or both palms out to the other person and say something like, ‘Let me be completely open with you’ (Figure 16). When someone begins to open up or be truthful, he will expose all or part of his palms to another person. Like most body language, this is a completely unconscious gesture, one that gives you a feeling or hunch that the other person is telling the truth. When a child is lying or concealing something, his palms are hidden behind his back. Similarly, a husband who wants to conceal his whereabouts after a night out with the boys will often hide his palms in his

pockets or in an arm fold position when he tries to explain where he was. Thus the hidden palms may give his wife a hunch that he is holding back the truth.

Sales people are often taught to look for the customer’s exposed palms when he gives reasons why he cannot buy the product, because only valid reasons are given with exposed palms.

INTENTIONAL USE OF PALMS TO DECEIVE

The reader may ask, ‘Do you mean that if I tell lies with my palms visible, people will believe me?’ The answer to this is yes - and no. If you tell an outright lie with your palms exposed, you may still appear insincere to your listeners because many of the other gestures that should also be visible when displaying honesty will be absent and the negative gestures used when lying will be visible and therefore inconsistent with the open palms. As already noted, con men and professional liars are people who have developed the special art of making their nonverbal signals complement their verbal lies. The more effectively the professional con man can use the non-verbal gestures of honesty when telling a lie, the better he is at his vocation.

It is possible, however, to make yourself appear more credible by practising open palm gestures when communicating with others; conversely, as the open palm gestures become habitual, the tendency to tell untruths lessens. Interestingly, most people find it difficult to lie with their palms exposed and the use of palm signals can in fact help to suppress some of the false information others may give. It also encourages them to be open with you.

Palm Power

One of the least noticed but most powerful non-verbal signals is given by the human palm. When used correctly, palm power invests its user with a degree of authority and the power of silent command over others.

There are three main palm command gestures: the palm-up position, the palm-down position and the palm-closed-finger-pointed position. The differences of the three

positions are shown in this example: let’s say that you ask someone to pick up a box and carry it to another location in the same room. We assume that you use the same tone of voice, the same words and facial expressions, and change only the position of your palm.

The palm facing up is used as a submissive, non-threatening gesture, reminiscent of the pleading gesture of a street beggar. The person being asked to move the box will not feel that the request is given with pressure and, in  a normal superior/subordinate situation, will not feel threatened by the request.

When the palm is turned to face downwards, you will have immediate authority. The person to whom you have directed the request feels that he has been given an order to  remove  the  box  and  may  feel  antagonistic  towards  you,  depending  on  your relationship with him. For example, if the person to whom you gave the request was a co-worker of equal status, he could reject your palm-down request and would be more likely to carry out your wish if you had used the palm-up position. If the person to whom you give the request is your subordinate, the palm-down gesture is acceptable, as you have the authority to use it.

In Figure 19, the palm is closed into a fist and the pointed finger becomes a symbolic club with which the speaker figuratively beats his listener into submission. The pointed finger is one of the most irritating gestures that a person can use while speaking, particularly when it beats time to the speaker’s words. If you are an habitual finger-pointer, try practising the palm-up and palm-down positions and you will find that you create a more relaxed attitude and have a more positive effect on other people.

SHAKING HANDS

Shaking hands is a relic of the caveman era. Whenever cavemen met, they would hold their arms in the air with their palms exposed to show that no weapons were being held or concealed. This palms-in-air gesture became modified over the centuries and such gestures as the palm raised in the air, the palm over the heart and numerous other variations developed. The modern form of this ancient greeting ritual is the interlocking and shaking of the palms which, in most English-speaking countries, is performed both on initial greeting and on departure. The  hands are normally pumped five to seven times.

Dominant and Submissive Handshakes

Considering what has already been said about the impact of a command given in both the palm-up and palm-down positions, let us explore the relevance of these two palm positions in hand shaking.

Assume that you have just met someone for the first time and you greet each other with a customary handshake. One of three basic attitudes is transmitted through the handshake. These are dominance: ‘This person is trying to dominate me. I’d better be cautious’, submission: ‘I can dominate this person. He will do as I wish’, and equality:

‘I like this person. We will get on well together’.

These attitudes are transmitted unconsciously and, with practice and conscious application, the following hand shaking techniques can have an immediate effect on the outcome of a face-to-face encounter with  another person. The information in this chapter represents one of the few documented studies of handshake control techniques. Dominance is transmitted by turning your hand (dark shirt sleeve) so that your palm faces down in the handshake (Figure 20). Your palm need not be facing the floor directly, but should be facing downwards in relation to the other person’s palm and this tells him that you wish to take control in the encounter that follows. Studies of fifty-four successful senior management people have revealed that not only did forty-two initiate

the handshake, but they also used dominant handshake control.

Just as the dog shows submission by rolling on its back and exposing its throat to the victor, so the human uses the palm-up gesture to show submission to others. The reverse of the dominant handshake is to offer your hand with your palm facing upwards

(Figure 21). This is particularly effective when you want to give the other person control or allow him to feel that he is in command of the situation.

However, though the palm-up handshake can show a submissive attitude, there may be mitigating circumstances to consider. For example, a person who has arthritis in the hands will be forced to give you a limp handshake because of his condition and this makes it easy to turn his palm into, the submissive position. People who use their hands in their profession, such as surgeons, artists and musicians, may also give a limp handshake purely to protect their hands. The gestures that follow the handshake will give further clues for your assessment of that person – the submissive person will use submissive gestures and the dominant person will use more aggressive gestures.

When two dominant people shake hands, a symbolic struggle takes place as each person tries to turn the other’s palm into the submissive position. The result is a vice-like hand shake with both palms remaining in the vertical position as each person transmits a feeling of respect and rapport to the other (Figure 22). This vice-like vertical

palm grip is the handshake that a father teaches his son when he shows him how to

‘shake hands like a man’.

When  you  receive  a  dominant  handshake from another person, it is not only difficult to force his palm back over into the submissive position, but it becomes very obvious when you do it. There is a simple technique for disarming the dominant hand shaker that, in addition to giving you back the control, can enable you to intimidate  the  other  person  by  invading  his personal  space.  To  perfect  this  disarmament technique you need to practise stepping forward with your left foot as you reach to shake hands

(Figure 24). Next, bring your right leg forward, moving left in front of the person and into his personal space (Figure 25). Now bring your left leg  across  to  your  right  leg  to  complete  the manoeuvre, then shake the person’s hand. This tactic  allows  you  to  straighten  the  handshake position or to turn the other person’s hand into the submissive position. It also allows you to

take control by invading the other person’s intimate zone.

Analyse your own approach to shaking hands to determine whether you step forward on your left or right foot when you extend your arm to shake hands. Most people are right-footed and are therefore at a great disadvantage when they receive a dominant handshake, asthey have little flexibility or room to move within the confines of the handshake and it allows the other person to take the control. Practise stepping

into a handshake with your left foot and you will find that it is quite simple to neutralise a dominant handshake and take the control.

Who Reaches First?

Although it is a generally accepted custom to shake hands when meeting a person for the first time, there are some circumstances in which it may be unwise for you to initiate the handshake. Considering that a  hand shake is a sign of welcome, it is important to ask yourself several questions before you initiate one: Am I welcome? Is this person glad to meet me? Sales trainees are taught that, if they initiate the handshake

with a buyer on whom they call unannounced and uninvited, it can produce a negative result as the buyer may not want to welcome them and is forced to do something that he may not want to do.

Again, such people as arthritics and those whose hands are their profession may become defensive if they are forced to shake hands. Under these circumstances, sales trainees are told that it is better to wait for the other person to initiate the handshake and, if it is not forthcoming, to nod as a sign of greeting.

Hand Shake Styles

The palm-down thrust is certainly the most aggressive handshake style as it gives the receiver little chance of establishing an equal relationship. This handshake is typical of the aggressive, dominant male who always initiates it, and the stiff arm with palm facing directly downwards forces the

receiver  into  the  submissive  position because he has to respond with his palm facing up.

Several    ways    to    counter    the palm-down thrust have been developed. You   can   use   the   step-to-the-right technique   (Figures   23   to   25),   but sometimes this is difficult to use as the initiator’s arm is often tense and stiff to prevent    such    tactics.    A    simple manoeuvre  is  to  grasp  the  person’s hand on top and then shake it (Figure

27). With this approach, you become the dominant party, as you not only have control of the other person’s hand, but yours is in the superior position on top of his with your palm facing down. As this can be embarrassing to the aggressor, we suggest that it be used with caution and discretion.

The glove handshake is sometimes called the politician’s handshake. The initiator tries to give the receiver the impression that he is trustworthy and honest, but when this technique is used on a person he has just met, it has the reverse effect. The receiver feels suspicious and cautious about the initiator’s intentions. The glove should only be used with people to whom the initiator is well-known.

Few greeting gestures are as uninviting as  the dead fish handshake, particularly when the hand is cold or clammy. The soft, placid feel of the dead fish makes it universally unpopular and most people relate it to weak character, mainly because of the ease with which the palm can be turned up. Surprisingly, many people who use the dead fish are unaware that they do so, and it is wise to ask your friends to comment on your own handshake delivery before deciding which style you will use in future.

The  knuckle  grinder  is  the  trademark  of  the  aggressive  ‘tough  guy’  type. Unfortunately, there are no effective ways to counter it, apart from verbal abuse or physical action such as a punch on the nose!

Like the palm-down thrust, the stiff-arm thrust tends to be used by aggressive types and its main purpose is to keep you at a distance and out of the initiator’s intimate zone. It is also used by people brought up in country areas who have a larger intimate zone to

protect their personal territory. With country folk, however, there is a tendency to lean forward or even balance on one foot when delivering the stiff-arm thrust.

The finger-tip grab is like the stiff-arm thrust that has missed the mark; the user mistakenly grabs the other person’s fingers. Even though the initiator may appear to have a keen and enthusiastic attitude toward the receiver, in fact he lacks confidence in himself. Like the stiff-arm thrust, the main aim of the finger-tip grab is to keep the receiver at a comfortable spatial distance.

Pulling the receiver into the initiator’s territory can mean one of two things: first, the initiator is an insecure type who feels safe only within his own personal space or second, the initiator is from a culture that has a small intimate zone and he is behaving normally.

The intention of the double-handed handshake is to show sincerity, trust or depth of feeling towards the receiver. Two significant elements should be noticed. Firstly, the

left hand is used to communicate the extra feeling that the initiator wishes to transmit and its extent is related to the distance that the initiator’s left hand is moved up the receiver’s right arm. The elbow grasp, for example (Figure 35), transmits more feeling than the wrist hold (Figure 34), and the shoulder hold, (Figure 37) transmits more than the  upper-arm  grip  (Figure  36).  Secondly,  the  initiator’s  left  hand  represents  an invasion of the receiver’s intimate and close intimate zones. In general, the wrist hold and the elbow grasp are acceptable only between close friends or relatives and in these cases, the initiator’s left hand penetrates only the receiver’s intimate zone. The shoulder hold (Figure 37) and the upper arm grip (Figure 36) enter the receiver’s close intimate zone and may involve actual body contact. They should be used only between people who experience a close emotional bond at the time of the handshake. Unless the extra feeling is mutual or the initiator does not have a good reason for using a double-handed handshake, the receiver will become suspicious and mistrust the initiator’s intentions. It is quite common to see politicians greeting voters and sales people meeting their new customers with a double-handed hand shake without realising that this can be social suicide, putting the receiver off-side.

1 Comment

Good share, great article, really useful for us…thanks.




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This page contains a single entry by ebhakt published on December 23, 2009 4:19 PM.

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