Do you know what a Merkel-Raute is? It has a Wikipedia page, which is definitely a recommendation for a hand gesture. The name comes from German Chancellor Angela Merkel who holds her hands in this fashion, finger tips together and pointed downwards, except for the thumbs that point upwards. It makes a diamond or rhombus (raute) of sorts.
It was ridiculed by comedians and celebrated by Merkel’s colleagues at her Christian Democratic Union party, who even used it for a campaign with a massive banner that read “Put Germany’s future in good hands”. All of this started with the leader wanting to know what to do with her hands. Allan Pease, a body language expert and author of 15 books, said that the leader has found the perfect resting posture with it, at Outlook Business’ Leading Edge 2019.
At the meeting of industry and political leaders, in Mumbai, Pease spoke about what a person conveys through his or her gestures and postures. “90% of the impression a person forms about another is made in the first four minutes,” he said. He then went on to give tips on how to give out the right message with examples.
If you are walking into a room full of strangers and need to make a non-threatening connection with them, then the best would be to smile (teeth flashing) and raising your eyebrows. Pease said that this comes from our primate ancestry, literally where one ape hanging down a tree wiggles his or her eyebrows at another hanging down another tree to say, “I see you.”
Like Merkel, maybe you have had trouble with your free hands while standing in the midst of a group. Perhaps, you cross them over your chest. What you are doing, said Pease, is choosing to be an observer. You have closed yourself out of the situation and are feeling comfortable simply watching things from the outside. You may choose another posture — of holding your hands to the front, one palm inside another. Pease said that this comes from a comforting memory from your past, where an elder may have held your hand when entering an unfamiliar space. These gestures are good to read on others but the best you can adopt, according to him, is the Merkel Raute. It conveys a quiet confidence, whatever the German leader’s detractors may say.
Business deals are closed many a time over lunches and dinners. You need to be careful not to get food stuck in your teeth then. Pease showed slides of people with a bit on the front tooth, and showed how the audience therefore failed to notice that one of the models had one ear missing and another had six fingers. “When you are annoyed about the smaller details, you miss the bigger ones,” he said. So, you may have the best product since sliced bread or idli, but if your dental hygiene is lacking, your investor may head to the next table to write a cheque. Unfair and shallow maybe, but remember that the audience did not notice the missing digit.
Imagine the candlelit or the expensive dinner went well and the investor or business partner would like to tie up the deal, with a nice little ribbon or a handshake. You have to know how to shake that hand. Pease said that you have to give as much pressure on the hand that you take, as much as you receive. If the pressure you receive is seven (on an imaginary scale of ten) then give a seven. If you give a two, you will be seen as indecisive, if you give a ten, then you may be seen as pushy. Either way you put off the other person.
The position of your hand also matters and they have to be decided depending on the situation. If you have an angry customer that needs placating, keep your open palm lower than the other’s hand. This means your palm is placed below the other’s. If you want to meet as equals, ensure the palms come side by side and, if you want to establish that you are the boss, let your palm come on top. Pease cited the example of US President Donald Trump’s diplomatic success with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In the photo, you see Trump placing his hand under Jong-un’s hand, which is a rare gesture for the Republican leader. Pease said that it made the younger leader feel important and even established the relationship as that between a father and son. How far this goodwill will go is anybody’s guess but the body language expert made the point that, even the most volatile interactions can be turned around with a gesture.