Monday, December 5, 2011

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 483:
Handshake on the 18th - not so fast

Here we see Zach Johnson (left) and Tiger Woods shaking hands after Tiger's first win in more than two years at the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament in Thousand Oaks, California yesterday. Note the angle that tiger is leaning forward into the handshake, while Zach's back is straight vertical - or perhaps even leaning slightly away from Tiger. Corresponding with these postures are the degrees to which their arms' are extended. Johnson was leading with just two holes to go, and Woods passed him and held the lead with consecutive birdies. The leader board tells us the winner, but their faces do not - at least not in this image - for they are both rather stoic. The great nonverbal tell here is this: it's person who is most enthusiastic and upbeat in the moment of the handshake, who will be the one who leans into it the most. If these two men were of equal emotional tone - the angle of the "lean in" and the extension of their arms' would each be mid-way between these two relative extremes. But this is not the whole story....

Too much "leaning forward" during a handshake can be detrimental as well as a signal of other emotional issues. If the two people are standing abnormally far apart - there is a lack of a desire to enter the other's personal space. This can often be a signal of emotional dissonance - and there may be a bit of this here with Tiger. He wants to be friendly, but he doesn't want to overdo it. He wants to be a gentleman, but we all know his recent history. Competing emotions are present - so we see competing signals. If Tiger's recent personal history were rosy, even with a dry spell in his professional life - he'd still be leaning forward here, but he'd be standing closer to Zach, and he'd probably be patting his shoulder.

Standing further apart than average during a handshake, may also signify a person who spent their formative years in a rural setting with a low population density.