The hand slap is a gesture that is normally exchanged between friends. It often takes place in two parts, especially if both parties are standing.
First the individuals slap their hands together at shoulder height or above (this is known as a “high five”), then one individual puts the same hand at waist level palm up and the other person slaps it with his palm down.
For this gesture to work as intended, it is imperative that both people have the palm of one hand engaged in the exchange. If a person slaps another person anywhere on the body without palm-to-palm contact, it is almost universally interpreted as a put down: like “a slap in the face.”
It is also possible to have both hands involved in the gesture. Some people prefer that method but the meaning is the same regardless of whether it is one or both hands.
There are numerous examples of when a hand slap might be the appropriate gesture to use. Let’s examine several situations and discuss how the slap works as a congratulatory gesture.
Cheering on a runner
Imagine your spouse is a runner in a marathon. You are standing on the sidelines, and there is so much cheering, your mate would never pick out your voice. But as she passes by you, she gives you a hand slap gesture as a thank you for your support.
An example in the work setting would be a worker completing a difficult assignment ahead of the due date. The manager might give this person a welcoming high five.
After a supervisor makes a great welcoming speech
Suppose a supervisor has just given an amazing onboarding talk to a group of 15 new hires. It is well known that getting new employees off to an excellent start emotionally does wonders for their successful incorporation into the organization. The manager, who was watching the training gives the supervisor a high five as he walks to the back of the room.
A speaker comes off stage
The person waiting in the wings gives the hand slap gesture as a way to indicate the speaker nailed the presentation. No words need be said for the meaning to come through loud and clear.
Manufacturing team does a product change in record time
Suppose a group of employees on a packaging line has taken on the challenge to make product changes more efficient. They try several new ideas and come up with a way to get the job done in half the time it normally takes. The supervisor does a high five with all of the team members as a way to congratulate them.
If a person slaps himself, it is normally a gesture of frustration rather than congratulations. Most often a person will slap herself on the forehead with the palm of her hand to indicate that she just made a bone-head move.
The only frustrating part of the hand slap gesture is if one person wants to do the two part variety but the other person only participates in the first half of the gesture. The cure for that kind of awkward situation is to take your cue from the other person. If you see no sign of the second half at waist high, then don’t offer it.
On flip side, if the other person sticks out her hand waist high with palm up, it is an indication that she wants to do the full double hand slap. You need to be alert to pick up the desire of the other person in real time.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”
In my speaking, consulting, and teaching activities, I use magic illusions to create zest for the topics being discussed. People enjoy the mental break from content to some kind of visual stimulus. In every four hour block of content, I always include at least one illusion. Then I can get back to the content with a fresh audience with clear heads and full attention. The tricks are professional purchased bits of technology that fit the topic being discussed.
For example, when discussing trust, I have an illusion where I put a nickel that has been marked by an observer in a small enclosed wooden box and let people verify it is in there. Then I set the box down and do not touch it again. Immediately, I produce a smaller wooden box with a lock on it and set it beside the box with the nickel in it. We can verify that the nickel is still in the original box, if desired. Then, without touching either box, I dangle a set of keys over both boxes in sequence while saying, “remember, the key to obtaining better performance is trust. Now I am going to reverse the location of the nickel by just dangling the keys over both boxes, remember that trust is the key.” Without touching either box, I hand the keys to an observer who opens the locked box to reveal the marked nickel. Stunned, the observer will immediately grab the original box and open it to reveal that the nickel is indeed gone. I explain the link to trust is that I have to trust my system to always work perfectly or the illusion will not work. Trust always involves risk, and I take a risk every time I do an illusion that it will not work or that the method will be detected.
Illusions help spice up any presentation because they create a mystery as to how the trick is done. Of course, like all magicians, I do not reveal how it is done, only leave people to puzzle over it. They know what we started with, and they can clearly see what we have at the end. They can also inspect the physical props to verify they are genuine. It is the process in the middle that provides the magic. This is similar to numerous processes in the work environment. The magic is in the process, and if we know our process well, then seemingly impossible things can happen on a regular basis.
For any organization, the magic that creates better performance is always based on trust. Where trust is low or missing, any organization will sputter and fume, but not run smoothly. When an organization decides to become serious about creating the benefits of high trust, it is exactly the same magic as some of the illusions. Something happens, and the outcome is totally different from what is expected, and it is a wonderful surprise.
There are many groups and individuals who help organizations move toward a culture of higher trust. I am one of them. My suggestion, if you are having problems meeting the ever-growing list of goals for performance, is to engage with a practitioner in your part of the world and have him or her describe the track record for the kind of trust enhancement work he or she does. It is invariably a profitable investment.
A tip for presenters:
I recommend the use of magic to all professional presenters who want to get future bookings. The process involves building up a supply of numerous illusions, so you have one that can fit most circumstances. Then you just select the correct illusion for a particular program and use it.
Most cities have a magic shop with many of the common tricks, but I use a specialty shop that is run by a professional magician. He has access to the little known and more baffling illusions. Of course, these tricks are expensive, in some cases, so you need to build up your stock over several years. I now have over 40 great illusions that I take care of and use regularly in my programs. They really help spice up my programs.