Non-verbal Communication:Your Eye-Contact and Handshake

Communication Tip for the community: How To Communicate With Your Handshake and Your Eye Contact
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.

Your non-verbals are really, really important in one-to-one communication. Often, it’s not what you say that counts. It’s what other people hear–and what they see–that counts.

This post will give you a non-verbal communication tip that fine actors and super-salespeople use. You can use it yourself, and if you are a parent or teacher,and interact with kids, you can share it with them to give them an early head start in their lives and careers. And, it’s a powerful communication tactic in business when you do an interview, sell a product or service, or deal with a complaint face-to-face.

First some sociological background. I know from personal experience that the communication tip I will share with you works in mainstream society in the United States and Canada and Australia.

I’m less certain about its effectiveness in some subcultures of the U.S., and I know you should not use it indiscriminately in certain nations that still have vestiges of deference behavior.

The basic idea of the tip involves how you make and sustain eye contact.

In caste-like societies,it’s considered rude and offensive for an individual of lower status, lower class, or lower caste to look directly at a “superior.”  “Inferiors” are expected to cast downward looks. This shows that they “know their place.”  For example, this kind of behavior was a key part of racial etiquette between blacks and whites in the Old South.

And this tip also is more a male than a female technique.  Long and direct eye contact between a man and a woman can be interpreted as a romantic signal.

Now that I’ve cleared away some of the undergrowth, here’s the tip.

Whenever you greet someone, give that individual a firm handshake–not a limp one. And–importantly–look that individual in the eye UNTIL THE COLOR OF THAT INDIVIDUAL’S EYES REGISTERS WITH YOU

Here’s why it’s important.  If you look directly and intently enough to know what color eyes he or she has, you will have automatically raised your level of concentration. The other individual will know that you are paying total attention, which is a sincere compliment.

That’s the benefit of this non-verbal communication technique. Paying enough attention to the color of his pr her eyes means that you are–as good actors say–in the Now.

A final recommendation to parents, teachers, and those who work with youngsters.  Most youngsters do not know what to do when they meet an adult.  So teach them this communication tactic.

Youngsters who shake hands confidently, and who make eye contact long enough to know eye color will be different in a good sort of way from kids who are embarrassed and shy, and who look downward or away  If they do it right, they will regularly get positive feedback from the adults whom they meet.

And you already know positive reinforcement does for self-esteem.

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—Gene Griessman is an award-winning professional speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-435-2225 or Learn more about Gene Griessman at and

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–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “The Words Lincoln Lived By” is in its 25th printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225.

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