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This Body Language Theory Explains Why Merkel Leaves Modi's Handshakes Hanging


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There's a popular theory that states the person whose hand is visible from the front during a handshake is perceived to be more dominant.

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

And since we use our right hands, the person standing on the right ends up looking more dominant.

And there are several instances across time and space in which certain people have positioned themselves to be the dominant person. Here is Modi shaking hands with former British PM David Cameron in 2015.

And here he is shaking hands with former French President Francois Hollande. Notice in both cases, Modi positions himself on the right, so his hand is front and centre.


A Business Insider article explains that allowing the other person to get the upper hand indicates giving up control, and is considered a bad move during political negotiations. Here is Modi with UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. Again, upper hand.

Politicians who want to be perceived as dominant and more powerful will often manipulate themselves to the right side, so they have the "upper hand" in the handshake photo op. Here's Hillary Clinton doing it to former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.

Body language experts state that US President Donald Trump constantly attempts to retain dominance in a meeting by the way he shakes hands with a person.

The above pictures are Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Trump with French President Emmanuel Macron respectively. Both times, Trump's hand is in full view.

While Modi does seem to have mastered the art of handshaking, Merkel is better at it. The way the podiums are arranged, Modi is on the right. So Merkel refuses to shake his hand for the cameras there.


You can also check out our alternate theories here:

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Andre Borges is a social news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Mumbai.

Contact Andre Borges at

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