Saturday, January 7, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 731:
Body Language, a Beautiful Prime Minister and a
Bad Handshake - Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra is the first female Prime Minister of Thailand. Here she is shown shaking hands with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda - although for a head-of-state, she's not doing so very well.

The handshake is great example of a "Goldilocks" body language. Similar to the fairy tale of the same name, it has to be performed in a "not too much, not too little, but just right" manner. Neglecting to use this nonverbal middle ground sends very wrong messages. When there isn't enough extension of the arm during a handshake (e.g. as Ms. Shinawatra displays above), messages of non-engagement and aloofness are transmitted. However extending the arm too much (see Negotiation Secret # 299: At Arm's Length) sends signals of distancing (e.g. "I'm not really sure about you", or "I don't really like you that much" or "I don't really want to be here", etc.). Prime Minister Noda strikes a happy medium however, and is extending his arm in an ideal in between (Goldilocks) manner.

Notice also how much Prime Minister Shinawatra is leaning forward. Having a table between two people shaking hands (as in the above example) is highly discouraged. Taking time to walk around to the other side of the table/desk when shaking hands builds warmth and rapport. Ms. Shinawatra amplifies this error by engaging in the handshake while standing further from the table than her Japanese counterpart. This increased distance necessitates a forward lean - and along with the interposition of the table sends a distancing, non-rapport, non-bonding building body language message identical to that described in the above paragraph. The opposite scenario of shaking hands standing too close - will make others feel uncomfortable, sometimes very uncomfortable. Entering into another's personal space should be reserved only for those who we know very well and feel comfortable hugging.

The Thai Leader is also not making any eye contact. While this is obviously a posed photograph, it is imperative to remember that quality and sincere eye contact (as Prime Minister Yoshidiko Noda exemplifies) cannot be over-emphasized. Not all "Bonding Moments" are created equal - and those during the few seconds of a well executed handshake will set the tone for entire diplomatic, business and personal relationships.

To her credit, Prime Minister Shinawatra is displaying a fairly good social smile - however Mr. Noda's smile has a higher "Sincerity Quotient" and indeed is a sincere smile - highly indicative of happiness-joy emotions. Each leader's hand and finger position is optimal here as well - with a symmetrical, neither-on-top, equal-dominance configuration - each palm being perpendicular to the floor.

A quality and sincere handshake has more components (some but not all of them delineated here) than most otherwise socially adept people realize and even very few CXOs perform them well - thus they squander the precious moments and opportunities of an initial greeting or re-greeting. Shakespeare's Brutus spoke it well:

There is a tide in the affairs of men, 
which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
and we must take the current when it serves,
or lose our ventures.