Donald Trump’s handshakes are likely a show of power, experts say

Click to play video: 'Trudeau and Trump all smiles during meeting inside White House'
Trudeau and Trump all smiles during meeting inside White House
WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands in the White House – Feb 13, 2017

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped out of his car to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House Monday, many waited with bated breath to witness one thing – the handshake.

You see, Trump has earned himself quite the reputation for the way in which he shakes hands. Just last week, a video showing Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shaking hands in the Oval Office went viral on social media. First, Trump appeared to shake Abe’s hand quite firmly, patting his hand twice.

READ MORE: Trudeau handshakes, meeting with Trump send Twitter into overdrive

Then, Trump maintained a few seconds of unbroken eye contact, during which the Japanese Prime Minister appeared to laugh uncomfortably. Trump then tugged Abe, drawing him in closer, before patting his hand again.

The entire encounter lasted around 19 seconds; some called it “weird,” others “uncomfortably long.”

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“Trump has a personality that needs to show dominance – that’s what you’re seeing in the pull towards,” Mark Bowden, expert in human behaviour and body language, told Global News. “The way I see his body language is a display of power, or a response to a display of power.”

READ MORE: Trudeau’s meeting with Trump in Washington has Ottawa on edge

Bowden said the act of patting his opponent’s hand is likely a show of dominance, noting that the move often comes across as condescending to anyone else in the room.

Body language expert Joe Navarro told Quartz the move might be a way to portray the relationship as being closer than it is for “perception management,” adding that the unwarranted pat will typically make people feel uncomfortable.

WATCH: Trudeau and Trump shared a short walk and talk outside the White House 

Click to play video: 'Trudeau and Trump walk and talk outside of White House'
Trudeau and Trump walk and talk outside of White House

By contrast, Trump’s handshake with Trudeau lasted about four seconds, there was minimal eye contact and no hand patting.

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“He didn’t do [any of those actions] with Trudeau – so either the media has shied him off, or he didn’t feel that he wanted to unconsciously  display that kind of dominance,” explained Bowden.

Yet, while several experts agree Trump uses domineering body language during his interactions, Bowden pointed out these media heavy public handshaking opportunities tend to make things awkward already.

“That’s not a real handshake – they are setting up a shot to create a symbol,” he said, adding that the length of the handshake between Trump and Abe in particular could have been spurred on by photographers asking for them to pose.

In fact, as pointed out by Jezebel reporter Gabrielle Bluestone, Trump’s awkward eye contact and lingering hands may have been due to a translation mix up.

According to the article, Trump asked Abe “What are they saying,” gesturing towards to the photographers speaking Japanese during the handshake. Abe replied with the translation: “Please look at me.”

“Trump appeared to take the translation literally, and began to stare at the Prime Minister, refusing to break eye contact with him even when he used his other hand to point at the cameras, where Trump was supposed to be looking,” read the article.

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Bowden noted that Trump likely has received training from a body language expert regarding how to come across as the more dominant party during a photo-opportunity. For example, politicians and business leaders are often taught to be on the left hand side of a handshake, in order to appear stronger, or outstretch their arm to appear “bigger” if they are one the right hand side of the interaction.

Although some may find these interactions strange, Bowden noted it seems to be working for Trump.

“He has his own way, and so far his own way has made him president,” he laughed.

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