Tag Archives: Politics

What Does Your Handshake Say? Learn These Tips

Balanced Counter Shake

Everyone is talking about President Trump’s power handshakes, and today everyone is proud of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not allowing Trump to bully-handshake him at their White house meeting yesterday.  I was contacted yesterday myself by Maclean’s Magazine for an interview on my thoughts on their non-verbal communication. That short video can be seen here, but be advised the interview was done before the video was made, so my comments do not necessarily match up with the images shown.

Are handshakes such a big deal?  Well, yes, they are.  They show non-verbal communication intentions on dominance, control, balance and openness. They are worthy of a bit of study, and I will give some tips on what to do or not do when shaking hands, particularly at a political or business function.

To start, ‘medium’ is the rule to remember. Walk at a medium pace, speak with medium voice/volume, gesture and shake hands with medium speed. This shows you are calm and in control of yourself.

After a calm approach, you should make sure you are engaged in eye contact and then smile as you extend your hand. Maintain good posture as you approach and extend the hand. Don’t bend at the waist (unless in Asia or with Asian delegates) and don’t over-extend your arm so you appear too eager and/or off-balance. Introduce yourself (e.g. Hello – I’m Ric. Nice to meet you!) and connect hands (not fingers) evenly, palm to palm. Be ‘firm but fair’ to the other people in your networking circles! Never crush a hand and never offer a seemingly ‘broken wrist’ or ‘just-fingers’ weak handshake. Both hands should be level – do not twist the hands to either extreme side, if possible. I am not a fan of twisting someone’s hand so that my palm is up and they have ‘the upper hand’ now, or vice versa. Let’s start off on equal footing, shall we?

Pump your hands 2-4 times, gently and evenly, and repeat the person’s name after they introduce themselves to help you retain that new information if necessary.  There is usually no need for extra tactics, like using your free hand to clasp the hands while shaking (the double) or patting the shoulder of the person you are engaging (the pat-down). In the North American culture these extras are not necessary, but if someone does that to you, it’s almost natural to return the favour, to even the score. Go ahead and do unto others as they do unto you.

Dominant people may want you to enter a room first and will gesture to let you go first, and may even lightly touch/pat your back, as a ‘guide’ through the doorway.  It looks polite (and it technically is) but it also is another example of them ‘steering’ you somewhere and being in control because they can see you the whole time, and you need to ‘trust’ them when they’re behind you.  In evolutionary terms, you never wanted a potential predator or someone you didn’t know/trust to be behind you where you’re vulnerable to blind attack.

Regardless of what is in their mind or their style of greeting, you should always aim for a balanced and equal meet to start the relationship on the right foot. Just don’t be surprised if others have favourite tactics they wish to use on you.  Whether it is at a formal business meeting or at a relaxed social outing, learning how to hand shake with balance and confidence, and learning how to match the other person’s style is all good practice!  Go ahead – put your best hand forward!  🙂


Update: Mike Bullard Show Discussing Body Language Today

Still doing interviews re: last night’s Premier Debate. Will have an online article come out today in Globe & Mail, (so I’m told) and – I’ll be a guest today on the Mike Bullard Show “Beyond the Mic” (NewsTalk 1010) at 12:23, discussing body language etc. of the Premier Debate last night. If you would like to listen in, here is the link:

Body Language: What The Leaders Are Really Saying

This is a brief article and some audio from an interview I recently did with Katie at NewsTalk 1010 in Toronto, regarding the body language and public speaking skill of Dalton McGuinty, Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath. Enjoy the debate tonight!
Click on either of the links below:


What You Can Do to Communicate with Comfort and Trustworthiness

Hello Fellow Communication Enthusiasts,

Today’s post is about what you can do to communicate with comfort and trustworthiness.

Many business leaders, politicians and public speakers need to get a clear message out to their audience to “trust me”, “follow me” and “believe me”.  Right now in Ontario, Canada we are in the middle of a race to elect the next (or same) Premier.  Will it be the current Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, PC Tim Hudak or NDP Andrea Horwath?  I have been doing some interviews with media on body language analysis and public speaking techniques for the voters to pay attention to as they watch their would-be leaders on television.

Let’s look at the 3Vs of communicating with comfort and trustworthiness.
Verbally, you need to use words that engage, build rapport quickly, and establish trust.  Use these words/phrases like these:
Friends, …
Fellow (Ontarians, Canadians, Business leaders, etc.)…
We are all in this together…
We all want to avoid a (mistake, economic recession, higher taxes, etc.)
I want to assure you that…
I trust that…
You can trust that…
You can believe me when I say…
Believe me, I will…

Vocally, your voice and speech need to be a lower tone/pitch, use medium speed with pauses before and after key words, phrases and points, and use medium volume with a clear voice.  You are going for a rhythm that is at times melodic or hypnotic but without putting people to sleep!  And you will match certain gestures with your stressed words.

Visually to establish rapport and trust, you need to be open and friendly (approachable) in your body language, use an engaging smile or even a laugh if appropriate, and not be wearing a ‘power suit’.  In this case we are attempting to create warmth and trust, not separation from the common group.  Your hands should gesture in open, symmetrical ways and predominantly be in front of the belly or up to the heart level.  Speaking ‘from the heart’ is great for our goals of rapport, comfort and trust.

Lastly, do not rock back and forth or side to side when speaking, and do not back up when making your points.  The audience will read this as a dis-connect between your words and non-verbal communication and it will be a problem.  Your base needs to be as solid as a rock, but your upper body of course gestures smoothly and appropriately with the chosen words.

I hope you use these 3V communication tips the next time you have to win an audience over.  If you are interested in learning more please check out more blog posts, and if you feel you would benefit from a personal assessment then contact me and we can set something up.

Enjoy your day and if you are in Ontario enjoy the upcoming election debate.  I know I will be watching the 3 leaders with a keen eye to see how they make us feel when they speak.

Jack Layton – A Confident Communicator Gone Too Soon

As we all know by now in Canada and many parts of the world, our fearless leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton, has succumbed to a second battle with cancer. He was only 61.

Jack was a great communicator because he was able to handle himself in difficult discussions (as the 2011 Leadership Debate certainly highlighted) as well as add a soft touch, a human connection to those he spoke with. He could connect with anyone and make them feel important whether it was face-to-face, over the phone or through email. Those close to him commented often on this ability to shift from professional lecturer/debater to small-town folksy chit-chatter. As a matter of fun-fact, before the 2011 election he was voted the guy Canadians would most want to have a beer with, compared to the other 3 federal leaders he was running against, in an online survey. More noteworthy was his ability to be memorable to those he met, for example the security guards at the Ottawa parliament buildings. That was a key concept of effective communication that Jack understood and employed – the ability to be remembered. That is one of the ingredients to having what people call ‘charm’ and ‘charisma’.

Good bye Jack.  You will be missed.

For more information, please visit his page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Layton

A Very Busy April Weekend!

Well first off I’d like to congratulate the newest royal married couple, Will and Kate. It was a fantastic wedding, and I wish you the best. As a Communication Coach, I hope that you continue to relate directly to your public, and don’t be afraid to be real in front of the camera, within reason of course!

Next, I have to send a big Good Luck to GSP (Georges St. Pierre), Mark Hominick, Jason MacDonald and the rest of the Canadian contingent who will be representing this great country on the mat and in the ring this Saturday at UFC 129. It is the first time the UFC has held an event in Toronto, and it was the biggest sell-out so far at 55 thousand seats. I’ll be watching and cheering them on. In the octagon, you cannot hide who you are. The truth will reveal itself. Buckle up.

Speaking of representing our great nation, who is going to win the Canadian federal election? May 2nd is the time to vote and support whichever party leader you believe will do the best job. Or, as some people have suggested, you can pick the one who does the least trash-talking and dirty ad campaigns. (That would be why Smilin’ Jack Layton has doubled his numbers in the last 2 weeks – people are sick and tired of the Liberal and Conservative dirty politics!)

I have to toot my own horn here for a second – it was a great honour to be asked to give my expert communication assessment of the federal leaders’ body language (and other non-verbal communications) after their Federal Leaders’ Debate held April 12th. I was interviewed by 1130 News in Vancouver, AM640 Toronto – The John Oakley Show as well as by host Stephen LeDrew on CP24 LeDrew Live TV show shortly after. I told everyone basically the same thing, which is that from a communication point of view, Mr. Harper had the best showing. He was calm, in control, did not get rattled when he was attacked, and he made symmetrical open hand/arm gestures stemming from his navel, which is an area called the ‘truth plane’. It’s a good place to keep your hands when you are trying to win trust.

Mr. Ignatieff used some poor hand gestures and was caught with his hand on his hip, but did use the ‘rule of 3’ well, which is when you use 3 words that are easy to remember. He repeated “jets, jails and corporate tax cuts” often enough that I still remember them! Problem is, if you overuse this technique, it sounds stale.

Mr. Layton used his smile well, in that he looked great deflecting the criticism with a smile and a joke. He has pretty good posture in general and leads with a strong voice. He was smoother that night that I expected, since Jack usually sounds choppy. He did a great job and I’m not surprised his ratings improved after the debate.

Mr. Duceppe has an obvious disadvantage in that English is his second language, but I can tell you that in any language you do not want to be caught reading your notes, which he was a couple of times. When he speaks fast and impromptu he does not sound as good as when he is prepared and calm.

These are just a few of the things that I noted during the debate. Unfortunately the video from the TV show and the audio from the two radio interviews are not available at this time. However here is a link to a short article from the Vancouver news station, should you be interested:

Have a great weekend, and if you are Canadian, please vote May 2nd. The future is in our hands.

PS – if you or someone you know needs executive coaching, especially for media, public speaking or presentations, please pass along my website contact info. These days it is extremely important that managers and other executives representing the government or a company are clear and confident in their messages to the public, or to the shareholders.

The John Oakley Show – Body Language of Cdn Leaders


After a radio interview this morning and a TV appearance today on the Stephen LeDrew Live show, I have been asked to continue sharing my analysis of the non-verbal communication of the 4 Canadian Leaders during their Tuesday evening debate.

I am happy that I will be on the John Oakley Show – AM 640 – Toronto, at 7:30am (April 14th).

Here is a link to his show’s website, where you can find a link to listen live, if you wish, or listen afterward, as long as the link is up.

Thanks John!