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Can a simple handshake create trust?

I was recently rereading Judith Glaser's book on Conversational Intelligence. In particular, I was reviewing her advice on using priming techniques to create a context for successful conversations.

Her advice when dealing with a person with whom you have a low level of trust, is to start the conversation with a handshake. The act of shaking hands is said to neurochemically raise your level of trust. By reaching out your hand, you trigger a release of oxytocin, which then triggers your brain to see the person as friend not foe.

Judith argues that if we can increase trust by initiating a handshake and generating the oxytocin release, we are giving the conversation a better chance of success than if trust is low.

This advice caused me to reflect on business dealings I have had with two men whose faiths required them not to shake hands with a woman. One of the men made an exception for women not of his faith, and shook hands with me when we met. The other never shook my hand.

Looking back, I formed a much closer working relationship with the colleague who shook my hand. While there were undoubtedly many other factors that went into determining our business relationships, I wonder how significant the impact of those first handshake/non-handshake moments were.

In my mediation work, I always shake hands with each of the attendees before we start. Perhaps I should work on a way of ensuring that they also shake hands with each other!

What do you think - does a handshake impact on the success of a business relationship?

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