By October 22, 2013

Power Plays Using Hand Shakes

You would often see politicians pose in front of cameras while greeting each other with a hand shake. You can observe all sorts of power struggles if you watch these few seconds of cameras clicking closely. Right from who stands on the left side of the picture frame to offering the double hander you can see it all on display.

LEFT SIDE ADVANTAGE:  The one on the left side of the camera usually gets to put his hand in front of the camera thus appearing to have the dominant upper hand.

Former American President George Bush is very famous for having mastered the left side advantage. (Read about how Indian Prime Minister Modi uses the left side as a strategy)


bush handshake

bush putin - 1

DOUBLE HANDER: When one party uses two hands to complete the hand shake instead of just one, the hand shake is typically called a Double Hander. 

double hander - 2

This type of hand shake can be used in two ways:

  1. To counter the dominant hand shake if used by the person on the submissive side. The person on the right side of the frame might try to counter the advantage gained by the other politician by placing his other hand on top of the handshake, thus establishing that he indeed has the upper hand advantage.
  2. It can be used by the hand shake initiator to show trust and warmth on his behalf. In this case, the higher up the arm that the initiator places his other hand, the more intimacy he tries to project.

counter dominant handshake - 2

The double hander is typically nicknamed the politician’s handshake and for very evident reasons. It is best to avoid this type of handshake in a formal setting as it is representative of a hug and can be taken offensively, especially by females. Offer a double hander only in cases where a hug would also be acceptable.

counter dominant handshake

In this picture you can see Mr. Putin countering Mr. Bush’s dominant handshake using a double hander.


Another way to counter the offer of a dominant hand shake is to step forward putting your left foot forward. Next bring your right foot in front of the person so that you step into his personal space. This will force him to move back a bit and loosen his grip on the handshake thus giving you a chance to turn your hand over. You can turn the hand shake into a neutral one or a dominant one, depending on the point that you wish to make to the counter person. You can see Mr. Bush using this technique to bring the hand shake on an equal footing in these pictures. (Also read how Indian leader Sushma Swaraj cleverly countered a dominant handshake)

bush countering dominant

bush countering dominant-2


Posted in: How To's

About the Author:

Khyati Bhatt has trained for mastery in Nonverbal Communication with retired FBI special agent Joe Navarro. She founded Simply Body Talk in 2013 to help individuals and corporates fine tune their nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication. Khyati believes in taking a scientific approach to body language. Her experience as a wealth manager, currency trader, and family entrepreneur has helped sharpen her nonverbal instincts. She is a fervent reader and has explored the work of many psychologists and anthropologists in her field of work.

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