Do you consummate a deal with a handshake? In the Western world, we use a handshake when we initially meet someone or greet a friend. We also shake hands when offering congratulations or expressing gratitude.
A handshake conveys trust, respect, balance and equality. All these traits are essential elements of a successful business relationship.
It sounds simple until we examine local customs, gender and cultural differences. Then it becomes more challenging.
It’s Complicated. Ten Sticky Situations
- Who offers their hand first and how long should a handshake last?
- Are strong, physical handshakes proper?
- Is breaking from the handshake first, a sign of weakness?
- What is proper if the individual is a Southern “lady,” or over the age of 80?
- What do you do if they do not have a right hand?
- Where do you put the left hand while shaking with the right hand? In South Korea and other Asian countries, keeping the left hand in the pocket while shaking with the right hand is an insult and is disrespectful. That’s enough to blow a business deal. America has a “casual culture” and some Americans think our way is the right way to do business.
- If they do not offer their hand when I extend my hand, what does it mean?
- What if they say, “I don’t shake hands? Hands spread disease.”
- When, does a knuckle bump replace a handshake?
- Where should my eyes focus while I shake hands?
We do not live in a Bubble
In raising these questions about handshakes, I hope to encourage everyone to consider learning how business is conducted in other countries. How do those unlike “us” conduct business? It is naive to think that the entire world uses the same method of greeting a colleague or when consummating a business deal.
Three Tips to Better Business Behavior
- Follow their lead. If they extend their hand first, do what they do.
- Ask someone you know and trust who is from that country for tips and hints about what is proper. This is your best source for knowing the right thing to do at the right time.
- Read a book on doing business in other countries. One that I often hear international business professionals recommend is Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway, published by Adams Media. This book attempts to cover business etiquette in 60-countries. However, it’s nearly impossible to be 100% accurate on this subject. I recommend that you consult a second source that specializes in the country you plan to conduct business in.
A “handshake mistake” may cost you a new customer, damage a critical negotiation or close doors to new markets. We cannot plead cultural ignorance any longer. Cultural Etiquette matters.
Take action now! However, the little voice in my head screams:
1. I’m tired of change.
2. Why can’t things stay the same?
3. This isn’t the way we used to do it.
4. I refuse to make more changes. I quit.
Sound familiar? It’s the curse of every employee and manager in the world. Escape is impossible. Change occurs at work, home, at our children’s school and in our place of worship.
I’ve accepted that despite protests, headaches and temper tantrums, change is inevitable.
Consider this your final warning! Accept change, and move forward or you’ll sink like the Titanic, clinging to the status quo boat anchor.
There is a lifeboat waiting. I reserved your seat. Join me. You’re invited to face Change:
The G-HOW Plan
Grateful: Acknowledge the good things, people and conditions in your life.
Honest: It is easier than making up lies and forgetting what you said.
Open: New experiences can be fun. Trust me here.
Willing: Temper tantrums at age 30 or 50 aren’t attractive.
- No less than twice a day, give thanks for what you have and for what you don’t have. Those with an ex-spouse know what I mean.
- Make daily entries in a Gratitude Journal.
- Be grateful for your health, even if it’s not great. I have a friend fighting bone marrow cancer for the second time. She fills her Facebook posts with words of thanksgiving for family, friends, doctors, the sight of a butterfly in her garden and for the cardinal’s song as he perches near her window.
- Be truthful in all communication whether it’s written, verbal or only in thought.
- Pause before responding, especially when angry or frustrated. Restraint is wise. No apologies to make later.
Remain open to new and scary experiences. Most of us fear that which we have not experienced. Remember, fear is an emotion like love or anger. It’s not a fact of life.
- Face fear. Running away is no longer your preferred option.
- Ask for help from those who’ve survived challenges.
- Celebrate success and those pesky “learning opportunities” (formerly called failures).
Be willing to face fear, take action and live to share your success. When you suit up and show up prepared to face the day, you demonstrate willingness to move from the guaranteed present towards an unknown, untested future.
Courage is found at the intersection of Fear and Faith.
Bullies are alive and some live in Kansas. Bullies take no hostages and revel in unearned victories.
The Fearless Negotiator met her match in the form of a 250 pound, 6’6”’ car repair shop owner and his tow truck cave man accomplice.
The mission was to help get a friend’s car out of the repair shop following an accident. A friend and I entered the body shop, introduced ourselves and shook hands. That was the last cave man socially acceptable action that the two bully business owners took.
The negotiation goal was to get a tow bill explained and hopefully a slight reduction in an exorbitant tow and storage charge for a two-mile tow.
Within 30 seconds of our arrival, the two men proceeded to yell insults at us, threatened to call the police, pounded on their chests in a primitive behavior, strutting around the lobby while telling me to shut up when I attempted to ask a question. Additionally, their logic included suggesting that people of my type, were one of the primary reasons that the United States of America was in disastrous shape.
Two petite American females were contributing factors in ruining America for the loyal red, white and blue Neanderthals that strutted before us. I had no idea that my physical stature could so do much damage to the Free Enterprise System by attempting to get a copy of an invoice and receive an explanation for the tow charges.
Bullies are not rational nor do they approach a discussion in a logical manner. They may choose to forgo doing business with someone again rather than risk losing a negotiation, especially while they promote their position in front of an audience. The body shop lobby confrontation had drawn a peanut gallery of tow truck drivers and mechanics who wanted to add their two cents with occasional laughs, snorts and grunts. For awhile the scene resembled a spectacle between four gladiators in the Roman Coliseum.
Tips When Facing a Bully Negotiator:
- Do the Homework First: Research the company you intend to negotiate with. If the opponent is a tow truck operator or body shop, consider watching Tow Truck War TV shows that deal in the world of vehicle towing. Know your opponent!
- Show No Emotion: Do not raise your voice, yell or use profanity. Bullies want a fight and love seeing their opponent love their composure.
- Avoid Physical Violence. This is a battle of the mind, not a street confrontation.
- Call Them On Their Game: Say, “Most people don’t find it necessary to raise their voice when speaking to me. I am interested why you need to do that.”
- Anticipate their Tactics: Address upfront, by saying, “I do hope that you’ll yell at me at least once during this conversation. If you don’t you will not live up to my image of people in your line of business.
I’d love to report that I reasoned with the two business owners and they understood my concerns. Or that they gave my friend a discount. Neither happened. The only method of payment they would accept was cash. No checks nor credit cards today at least not from the two people who could ruin the American way of life by asking for a discount.
We paid cash and got out before we were physically harmed. Sometimes it’s best to walk away. As Kenny Rogers sang in in The Gambler, You’ve go to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em and know when to walk away.
I am wiser today. If there is a next time, I will take someone who speaks Neanderthal.