» How to get people to believe you
» Palms up, palms down
» Handshake styles
» Rubbing the hands together
» Money or heart?
» Hands clasped
» The steeple hands
» Hands behind the back
You may not realize the power you have in your hands — literally.
There are times when your hands can save you or betray you, and it all happens without your conscious involvement.
That is unless you know how the hand language works, of course.
In many languages, the word “hands” is used to express much more than a body part. Think about it: In English, we say things like
- “Mike has the upper hand in their relationship”, meaning he is in a position of advantage, power, and control.
- “She is hands down the best teacher in the school”, meaning she is easily the best.
- “Don’t show your hand if you want to succeed”, meaning if you want to succeed, don’t reveal your plans.
- “An offhand remark”, meaning a remark given without much thought or preparation.
In most cultures, an open hand is associated with honesty.
Throughout history, a palm held over the heart or in the air when giving testimony was meant to emphasize truthfulness.
Arabs, Malaysians, and Indonesians have a habit of holding their hands over the heart when they greet each other as if to show their sincere happiness.
For some reason, it is really difficult to lie with your palms exposed, and that brings us to a whole new exciting topic: Hand gestures in body language.
How to get people to believe you
When we are accused of something we didn’t do, we tend to get all emotional and say things like “I didn’t do it”, “I wasn’t there”, “I have no idea!”
You are likely to expose your palms as if to show you aren’t hiding anything.
Another person will get an intuitive feeling that you must be telling the truth.
On the other hand, be alert when someone is telling you something important while their hands are in their pockets or hidden behind their back.
Hidden palms certainly don’t make things more believable even when they are true.
This, of course, may not apply in certain situations, but the more intense the situation and the more critical the issue at hand, the more likely it is that the person is lying or holding back some vital information.
Another important thing to know is that many women prefer to look busy when lying.
They will either compulsively clean and rearrange things or constantly try to talk about unrelated subjects to distract you.
Palms up, palms down
The way you use your palms while talking to others can significantly alter other people’s perception of you.
Make a simple request with your palms facing up, and people will feel you are asking for a favor.
They will not feel bothered by your request, nor will they feel threatened or pressured.
But if you make the same request with your palms facing down, it will feel more like an order.
Like with everything else in body language, cultural differences are possible.
For example, the classic Western come-here gesture (arm extended while waving toward yourself with your palm up) would be seen as degrading in South Korea.
Here’s the right way to do it while in Korea:
Not only can a handshake set the tone of any business or political meeting, but it can also affect its outcome.
When two equal people shake hands, their hands will remain vertical, with each hand looking like a mirror reflection of the other hand.
But if one person’s palm faces upward, it might be perceived as a symbolic surrender and that that person accepts the other person’s superiority and dominance.
Similarly, many successful executives and aggressive politicians tend to use a dominant style while shaking hands.
Be that consciously or subconsciously, their hands always end up on the top unless, of course, the other person doesn’t accept their dominance and engages with them in a symbolic power struggle.
In this case, both hands will remain vertical, like in an “equal” handshake.
But what do you do when someone imposes their dominance on you during the handshake?
An easy way to deal with this is to put your left hand over their right hand, forming a double-hand handshake. By doing this, you create a power switch.
However, it can annoy the other person, too, so use it only when you absolutely need to.
It’s important to mention that a double-hand handshake is not always negative. When given by a close friend, it communicates warmth and openness, just like a hug.
In many Arab countries, a stranger might give you a double-hand handshake without trying to intimidate you.
If you are a friend of their friend, they could give you a double-hand handshake as if they were to say, “You are just like my other [close] friend to me.”
Summing up, if you want to give a friendly handshake, make sure that both hands stay in a vertical position and apply no more pressure than the other person.
Rubbing the hands together
In most cultures, rubbing the hands together would mean excitement and anticipation of something good to happen.
That is, of course, unless it’s cold.
The speed of rubbing may convey the level of excitement or how soon good things are expected to happen.
Money or heart?
A thumb and finger rub is commonly associated with money, as if you were to say, “Give me the money!”
Despite its wide recognition, this gesture is considered impolite.
The same gesture without rubbing would mean “heart” in South Korea, as if you were to say, “I love you.”
Depending on the situation, hands clasped or clenched together may mean several things.
It may mean that a person using it is about to assume a strong stance, or it may mean confidence or even nervousness.
There is one interesting observation made by body language experts Alan and Barbara Pease, who co-authored fifteen books on body language: The height at which the hands are held reveals the degree of the person’s frustration.
If the person holds their hands clenched and fingers intertwined in front of the face while sitting, she might be tough to deal with.
Offer them a drink or ask them to hold something to unlock their hands — they are likely to become much more open to what you have to say.
The steeple hands
The steeple hands gesture where the hands form an upward-pointing V conveys a confident and self-assured attitude.
Although it is often used by superiors, the person using it is not necessarily trying to dominate you.
They are just feeling smart and confident.
Hands behind the back
Walking or standing with hands behind the back where one hand holds the other helps you look more authoritative and in control.
Using this gesture in a high-stress situation should help you feel more confident.
On the other hand, hands hidden behind your back don’t make things more believable (see above), so you may want to avoid it when you want others to believe what you are saying.
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