Only about 7% of the meaning taken from our communication comes from the actual words we use. Approximately 38% is from tone of our voice and 55 % comes through non-verbal communication, which includes facial expressions, gestures and posture. Handshakes and a proper eye contact are part of that 55% so it is crucial to get them right!

Non-verbal language is a vital part of the communication process. Body language that is consistent and congruent with the verbal message you are communicating will help build trust and rapport.

The Handshake.

Often, the handshake is the only physical contact that takes place in a business setting. We create impressions quickly, based on that handshake to determine the future of a business relationship. Handshakes begin when we make eye contact, once eye contact is made the hand is extended.

If you wait for someone else to initiate the handshake, you risk being perceived as timid or unsure of yourself. The exception is when you are visiting someone else’s office or environment. If they don’t offer one, then you can hold out your hand.

Let’s look at some simple rules once you get to the handshake:

  • It is also important to meet the person’s grip web to web and palm to palm and match pressure whether it is a firm or light handshake.

  • Shake hands with confidence, with only one squeeze. count 1,2,3, then drop.

  • Don’t sandwich the other’s person hand between both of yours, it suggests you are trying to overpower.

  • Don’t bone crush, glad hand, or wimp out with a two-knuckle finger wiggle, the kind of handshake that only includes half of the hand.

  • Treat men and women with equal respect. It is as appropriate for a man to offer his hand to a woman as it is for her to offer first.

Eye Contact

The eyes are the windows to the soul and eye contact is one of the most powerful ways to establish trust. Effective use of eye contact helps us exhibit confidence as a speaker and respect as a listener. Eye contact should be held while people are speaking to demonstrate respect and interest. Be mindful of cultural differences though, some cultures believe the opposite, that eye contact is a show of disrespect.

If you lose eye contact or focus on everything else but the person you are speaking to, you may not be taken seriously and the truth in your message may be lost.

Failing to maintain eye contact during a conversation can send mixed signals to the person you are speaking with. It is often construed as a tell-tale sign that you might not be forthcoming or truthful in what you are saying - liars tend to not keep eye contact. At best it will be perceived as lack of interest or an indication of a short attention span.