Saturday, June 15, 2024

Body Language and Behavior Analysis No. 4751: Donald Trump's and Mitch McConnell's Handshake in DC – Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence


On Thursday 13 June 2024, Donald Trump met with Republican members of the House and Senate in Washington D.C. It was the first time Trump had returned to the nation's capital since leaving office almost 3.5 years ago (Photo Credit: Doug Mills).
The meeting took place at the Capitol Hill Club – an exclusive Republican social coterie – just 0.12 miles from the grounds of the US Capitol, the site of the January 6th 2021 Insurrection. 

The Capitol Hill Club occupies the same building which once was the home of former Senator John McCain's parents.

Intriguingly, the Capitol Hill Club is also the location where the second DC pipe bomb was planted on the evening of January 5th, 2021 (not at the RNC headquarters, an adjacent building, immediately to its south [as is nearly always falsely reported]).

The above image captures the first meeting of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell since Trump left office.

Note the angle at which each man 'leans into' the handshake. Trump's torso is tilted at about 30º-35º and McConnell is also leaning-in, but less so, about 20º.

This behavior is akin to leaning-in during a hug, wherein the further apart the two *lower* bodies are, the greater the lean-in required – indicative of less (or absent) affection. 

In the context of a handshake, the greater the leaning-in, the less the respect and/or (what we see demonstrated here) – the less trust (or no trust) held for the other person.

Now you may say, "Well what about the chair and the corner of the table, between them? Those obstacles prevent the two men from leaning-in."

While if you isolate this moment solely to physics and physical objects, you would be correct – but with respect to psychology, you'd be dead wrong. 

Human nature doesn't exist in isolation. 

If you have affection for, respect, or trust another person, your psyche wants to 'close the distance' to them. There's a subconscious drive to be physically closer. 

Ergo, without thinking about it, you'll step around objects (or move them) to hug or handshake. You won't lean-in any more than a small amount. 

If you trust and/or respect the other person (and absolutely if you have affection for them) your body will be straighter and your feet would be closer during a handshake than what is exemplified here. 

So with rare exceptions, you should never reach across a table (or any obstacle) to shake someone's hand. 

Take the time to walk around any obstacles prior to shaking someone's hand. This simple and conscious act shows more respect for the other person – and will increase their respect for you.

You may say, "Well, what if Trump doesn't like McConnell (or vice versa)?" They still should walk around obstacles for a handshake, for doing so also demonstrates greater command of the situation (less pretense and more substance).

Moreover, depending on the other simultaneous (nonverbal, verbal, and paralanguage) behaviors, the reach-across-the table handshake can also convey that they who are reaching – are also very often intimidated. 

Another mistake Trump almost always commits during a handshake is that he offers the other person his hand in a palm-up configuration. This is almost never advised.

Exception: i.e., if your boss or some other obvious organizational superior *offers you their palm-down hand first*, it's wise to reciprocate with your hand in a palm-up manner.

But if you extend your hand first (good advice), always keep your palm perpendicular to the ground (even if they're your boss or head-of-state).

Trump offers his palm-up first for one of two reasons:

A. So that he can give the other person the 'hand sandwich' (see below)
B. He may have an old rotator cuff injury (or similar) which makes a palm-down or palm-perpendicular handshake physically difficult.

A 'hand sandwich', sometimes called 'the double-hander', (what Trump is doing in this example) is a dominance display. Trump is trying to convey to McConnell that he controls the Senator – that he has more power.

At other times, when Trump isn't using the double-hander (or one of its variations), he's usually using another dominant/controlling handshake – although he doesn't always succeed. Thank you, PM Trudeau.

(Note: There are numerous other body language components to proper handshakes – and many other handshake scenarios. This post is not intended to be comprehensive.)

SUMMARY: It's no secret that Donald Trump 'does not like' Mitch McConnell – and McConnell feels the same about Trump (they may even hate each other). ...

... and their specific behavior in the above image shows us an amalgam – that Trump and McConnell:
• Don't respect each other
• Don't trust each other
• Are intimidated by each other
• They need each other

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