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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Mr. Trump’s Handshake + Wine Etiquette + Cubicle Etiquette

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


How to avoid being strong-armed by Mr. Trump's handshake and having to give multi-greetings in the office, and whether or not to tip the wine steward, were all questions to Didi Lorillard this week at NewportManners, along with banishing stinky foods in the workplace.

The presidential handshake

Q. What's with the president's handshake?  Whenever we see a photo or YouTube clip of Trump greeting a foreign dignitary his handshake looks even more awkward. He is having a wrestling match with Prime Minister Trudeau -- which he lost, by the way. Where are the protocol people in the White House? What's up with that?  LC, Providence


A. In a show of control and intimidation, Mr. Trump shatters protocols with a handshake that has been described as unnatural and bizarre. As you say, using his handshake as a way of asserting dominance is awkward. Far from warm and welcoming, his presidential handshake is a bullying move, worse than invading personal space by standing too close. 

When Mr. Trump then pats the hand, arm, shoulder or back of the person he's greeting, it comes off as patronizing. Witnessing Mr. Trump shaking hands with another man is painful, because he's clearly trying to emasculate the other man, pulling him around as if he was a small child.

It's the "old" used car salesman gimmick. Forcing the other person into a defensive posture by dragging him or her forcefully into his sphere. A typical, "I'm stronger than you move." His herky-jerky grappling style makes him look as though he's going to rip the other person's arm out of its socket.

A germophobe, notice that Mr. Trump never extends his arm to shake hands, so his fear of touching another person's hand becomes a dominance/bully thing. In order to make the other person feel uneasy, he stands sturdy and pulls that man or woman into his personal space, causing him or her to look off-balance.

In these photos of Mr. Trump shaking hands, first with Untied Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May and then with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Mr. Trump pulls the prime ministers in toward him in an in-your-face move causing them to look clumsy. The third photo shows him seated with Mr. Abe, shaking hands: the handshake becomes an arm wrestling match with Mr. Trump's hand ending up on top victoriously.

Here is Mr. Trump's power-driven bonhomie of affection as he drags the prime minister into him enclosing his hand, essentially making it known that he is in full control. It is the grab-the-hand-and-pull the other person off their feet trick.

Then seated shaking hands after an arm wrestle that ended with Mr. Trump taking control and enclosing Mr. Abe's hand with his two hands, a smirking Mr. Trump condescendingly pats the prime minister's hand in a patronizing manner.

The pat on Mr. Abe's hand showed dominance and, seated, Mr. Trump looks as though he's giving the "death grip." 

Protocol is that to hold the hand of a Japanese prime minister for so long would be an affront to the culture --  although a Japanese person would never complain. In learning the many customs of Japanese business etiquette, most important is the handshake.

Mr. Trump may have won the arm wrestle with Mr. Abe, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one step ahead of Mr. Trump blocking him from taking control; as a boxer, he wasn't going to let Mr. Trump emasculate him.

Mr. Trudeau took the lead by catching the president off guard by quickly grabbing Mr. Trump's shoulder with his left hand steadying himself for a full potential pull. 

Mr. Trudeau then brings the handshake close and toward his center, cutting off Mr. Trump's leverage. 

In pulling Mr. Trump toward himself with his left hand, it kept him in the right position for applying judo principles to his handshake. 

At the joint press conference, Mr. Trudeau was an intelligent, articulate, and captivating speaker. Let's not forgot that the prime minister talked about welcoming the 40,000 Syrian refugees that Canada had just let in, while Mr. Trump in his inarticulate childish way talked about how tough he is on immigrants. 

Here Prime Minister Trudeau controls the handshake from start to finish.

Mr. Trump's handshake belies his business dragging the other person into defensive posture by moving him or her into his sphere. It's a common, shabby, I'm-stronger-than-you move. 

If the Trumps are so keen on meeting the Queen and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, they will need to up their manners.

Tipping the wine steward

Q. When the advice of a wine steward is accepted, do I tip him or her aside from tipping the waiter and if so, how much?  LB, Manhattan


A.  No matter how well you know your wines, the advice of a wine steward or sommelier can indeed be reassuring and even helpful. A hearty few words of thanks may be all that is necessary. Traditionally, you would tip 15% to 20% of the cost of the meal including the wine, before the tax is added. It is always good etiquette to tip a sommelier, but it is not mandatory when the cost of the wine is included in the bill. On the way out the door, you can, of course, slip the sommelier cash, again 15%-20% of the cost of the wine, along with your generous words of appreciation.

On the other hand, if you do not like the recommendation, the wine steward should find you a different wine. You shouldn't feel stuck or intimidated into drinking a wine that isn't to your taste. The wine steward should exuberantly say, "Let me find something else." If you're going to pay for a bottle of wine, you should drink what you like. If the wine is particularly good -- a real find  --  you may want to slip the sommelier an extra $5.

Multiple daily greetings

Q.  Aside from the weird noises of clearing throats, sneezing and cellphone ring tones that I have to endure listening to daily working in a cubicle, what bugs me even more is having to say "hi" several times a day to the same coworkers all day long. I can cut them off when they ask, "How are you?" by simply saying "good" and not asking them how they are. Do I have to greet the same colleagues all day long with a "hi"?  VM, Seattle


A.  Use body language and facial expression to acknowledge the person's presence. A simple nod, smile, wink, or slight wave of the hand can get you by in most instances. When passing by, don't slow down, but don't speed up either. Then there is always the looking away as though you are distracted by a sound or reading a text.


Stinky office food

Q.  I know that what might smell like stinky food to me, may not be stinky to others, but where do we draw the line?  Microwaving food to stink up the office is not considerate. What constitutes an offensive smell? How can we make coworkers more aware of their stinky food? My fellow office workers thrive on ethnic food, the stinker the better and when it is heated up, the smell hovers into the next day.  Name withheld


A.  Who is to chose which foods are stinky? If there were to be a list of No Stinky Foods in the office kitchen? A banana may smell warmly familiar to you, but the aroma of peanuts or a tuna sandwich could be an olfactory irritant to others. Let's not blame all the stench on ethnic food. Make up a list (or better yet have HR post it). Be sure to add to the list fish of any kind, including No Fish Reheated in the office microwave. Then list such favorites as hot dogs, hard boiled eggs, raw onions, reheated Chinese or fast food, and Korean kimchi (spiced pickled cabbage). Encourage your coworkers to make additional suggestions to the No Stinky Foods list.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners.


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