President Trump’s Political Handshakes
In a July 14, 2017 New York Times online article, Katie Rogers wrote an article titled “All the President’s Handshakes“. As leader of our country President Trump is meeting many world leaders for the first time. How he greets them can set the stage for how they get along in the future. Rogers based her article on two experts who analyze President Trump’s handshakes with other world leaders. Jacqueline Whitmore is an author and etiquette instructor, while Chris Ulrich is an expert in body language and presentation skills. Two of their analyses of President Trump are related below.
The most recent was July 14th in Paris, when President and Mrs. Trump met President and Mrs. Macron. Whitmore and Ulrich’s take on the encounter sounds like a wrestling match, so that is the analogy I use. I will paraphrase Whitmore and Ulrich.
Whitmore: Macron and Trump meet and Macron immediately goes for a dominance play by putting his right hand on top of Trump’s hand while putting his left hand on Trump’s back. But Trump instantly responds by patronizingly patting Macron’s hand and pulling him close to him. Then to further establish control Trump puts his hand on the shoulders of Macron’s wife, a clear violation of intimacy for a first-time meeting.
Ulrich: Macron won’t give in or let go. He pats Trump (a power play) and Trump returns the pat. They walk off together and Trump offers his open palm (beggar’s pose) and Trump grabs Macron’s hand and knocks him off balance by pulling Macron into his own body. Trump then adds further dominance by pulling Macron’s wife into the handshake, leaving Melania looking like an outsider.
Now let’s move on to President Trump and President Putin at the July 7th G-20 Summit Meeting.
Whitmore: President Trump’s handshake with Putin shows sincerity but Trump adds to it by putting his left hand underneath Putin’s left arm. The higher up the arm the more desire to forge a bond, but the hand goes under the arm instead of on top because Putin hasn’t affirmed his desire to also form a bond.
Ulrich: Trump initially gives up power by approaching Putin first, but Trump established his own power by grabbing Putin’s elbow. Then Trump re-established the power with a touch and a pat on Putin’s back.
In closing, I think presidential handshakes are fascinating because a lot of politics can be expressed without saying a word. I think you will agree.