Leverage your hands to make a good first impression

A good first impression could be our only chance to show that we have confidence. At work and in life, confidence matters just as much as competence. However, while both skills can be learned and cultivated, we seem to understand that in order to show competence, we need time. The image we project in a first encounter tends to “stick”. It sets the tone for the relationships that follow, and is crucial when we want to negotiate effectively, because once formed, it becomes fixed in people’s minds.

Businesspeople handshaking after negotiation

Start with the basics

– Good grooming, but keep in mind that you are not going to a wedding!

– Be aware of your body language. Stand up straight. Your posture tells your story.   Good posture commands respect and promotes engagement. If your movements are aggressive, you could be signaling hostility.

– Positive energy. Avoid negativity and anxiety, and focus on positive thoughts. If necessary, mentally rehearse before you even enter the room.

– Be on time. It shows that you are responsible, reliable, and respectful.

– Be polite. Politeness shows mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

– Smile. A genuine smile relaxes the atmosphere and always opens doors.

– Offer a friendly “Hello” to everyone you meet, not only your client or your boss.

The first handshake speaks volumes

first impression handshale

A lot has been said and discussed about President Trump’s handshaking ways and approach. His awkward style, pulling other’s hand towards him or  strongly pushed in a different direction, projects him as a controller. This unusual behavior for a public leader has moved the art of handshaking from being present in the news worldwide, to the global business agenda. And thanks to Mrs. Trump, those who had forgotten the essentials of business etiquette to negotiate effectively, now will be more aware of the consequences of the power of a first imprint.

The person’s character is generally reflected when greeting someone. It defines us, the way we act and react, how we treat people, and is a good indicator of business outcomes. If you want to know if your handshake style is a deal maker or a deal breaker, check  the full spectrum of shaking hands that exist, and never forget that business etiquette also varies according to cultures and countries.

 A standard successful handshake that works to foster trust

  • Raise your hand from your side and extend until webs of both hands meet. Grasp across the palm, wrapping fingers around the opposite side from the thumb. Keep a vertical position, which means you are willing  to treat the other as an equal and generates mutual respect. The symmetry in their actions reinforces the symmetry in their relationship to enhance cooperation.
  • Hold firmly. Respect the other’s space. Shake a few times or for about three or four seconds.
  • Make eye contact. Smile. If you know the name of the person, say it. The same applies when you handshake to depart.
  • If your hands are full, rather than risk dropping everything, giving a polite nod is considered acceptable. If the other person’s hands are full, be kind and don’t offer a hand shake. Your discernment will be noted and appreciated.
  • If wearing gloves, remove them.
  • It is customary to stand if you’re caught in an introduction seated.

The anatomy of nonverbal communication

Obviously, a first impression is powerful in both directions. A first impression affects how you perceive the other party and how they perceive you. What happens in that first minute of the first impression can change the path of the negotiation. The main conclusion is that first impressions are not about what we say. More than words, 93% of a good first impression relays from the tone of our voice and what we project with our appearance and nonverbal communication – body language. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, “Words matter 7%, Tone of Voice 38%, and Body Language 55%.”

Therefore, the next time you prepare for an important meeting, remember that a negotiation starts before you are even seated. You have approximately one minute to generate trust and show your confidence. If you nail this first impression, you will be perceived as competent too.

In those initial 60 seconds, we judge the other person’s clothes, handshake, general appearance, and how he or she introduces him/herself. And, if we are part of a team, remember that all these subtle and subliminal pieces of information go beyond appearance, and encompasses group dynamics. In a negotiation, it is important for each team to show a united front. If one party senses that there is internal conflict and disagreement in the other team, it could provide an opening for a power play.