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The Power of Handshake

Shaking hands for success
We’ve already discussed origin of hand shaking ritual and also few valuable tips to retain positive impression of hand shake (How a good hand shake should be?). Along with same, we’ve gone through different types of hand shakes and an unconscious message conveyed by each of them. Now, we’re rethinking about hand shake through an entirely different perspective - scientific experiment and conclusions. It’s definitely going to change the way you engage in hand shake from next time.

What hand shaking is after all? It’s an intentional tactile contact (touch) between palms to two persons for certain amount of time. Also, by norm, locked palms are moved up and down for 2 - 3 times in vertically by two persons. If palms are hold firmly (and not crushed) by both persons, dense nerve endings underneath of our skin receives great amount of soothing sensation. Even if contact is not extended over long duration as part of formality, the effect is almost similar to comfort touching taking place between parent and child or two romantic partners. Harmless and tender touch is like a magic.

It’s really surprising to know the fascinating outcomes of an experiment that was conducted by a renowned institution. The conclusions not only underline positive evaluation of an individual through a hand shake but also approach or avoidance body language adopted or unconsciously given away by the same person during interpersonal encounters.
As compared to controlling (self-restraining) body language, both approach and avoidance stances are intensely evaluated by different key parts of our brain. Both stances are deeply connected with brain’s reward system and mutual benefits that can be gained through a social rapport.
Mutual touching conveys intentions.
Body language of social acceptance or approach is the way we convey to the other person by keeping posture open, making good eye contact, moving or standing close and exposing torso (upper body) towards the other person. Avoidance is exactly opposite - avoiding eye contact, standing away, moving body away from the other persons or going in opposite direction (in other words - showing your back or closing door on face of somebody). Controlling stance means to remain in closed (upper) body posture in front of the other person.

Typical evaluation scale
Hand shake can give you good ratings on three different evaluative scales - Interest (in doing  business), Competence and Trustworthiness. It can also diminish the negative evaluation or impression due to avoidance or withdrawal stance. Mutual body contact or touching is important not only in social relationship but also in formal or business associations. It not only expresses your interesting for tie up but also the degree of aptitude and reliability required for conducting different tasks together.

This article is entirely based upon a research conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States about Neural Correlates of Evaluative Judgments in Observed Social Interactions in 2012. Research included both fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) and skin conductance test that derived enlightening conclusion - handshake has neurological basis for positive evaluation of personal approach especially during business deals.

This research had involved human subjects and short video clips (stimulus) were shown to them. Activities inside their brains were monitored in real time and they were also asked to give rating for each social interaction. Sandra Dolcos, Florin Dolcos (University of Illinois), Keen Sung (University of Massachusetts), Jennifer Argo (University of Alberta) and Sophie Flor-Henry (University of Calgary) headed the experiment and paper was published in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

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