Grab Them By The… Hand: Donald Trump’s Disturbing Nonverbal Behavior

The 19-second handshake between Japanese PM Abe and current U.S. President Trump
The 19-second handshake between Japanese PM Abe and current U.S. President Trump

President Trump has shown his malignant narcissism to the world in the time leading up to his ascension to the Oval Office and during the first three weeks of his term. His (mis?) communication with words, whether in front of a microphone or on Twitter, has been well documented.

But his non-verbal behavior speaks volumes… specifically his strange, often violent, style of shaking hands. Remember, the narcissist views the world as a personal playing field in which he controls the players and the gameplan.

People are treated as a means to an end and their value is determined by the benefits he or she may bring the egocentric narcissist. Trump’s handshaking technique strongly supports that this is the President’s approach with others – no matter their station in (real) life.

In the past several months, we have seen Mr. Trump execute a “grab and yank” handshake designed to literally and figuratively knock the recipient off balance. In addition, it is a thinly veiled, manipulative method of informing his “opponent” that he is in control. When he shook hands with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, for example, Mr. Trump pulled the judge three times (almost knocking him over) and repeatedly slapped the top of the judge’s hand; a combination of moves that has been suggested to be a power play in some situations.

In a recent article on, Trump is documented to have “grabbed and yanked” Vice President Pence, FBI Director Comey (a man who towers over Trump), Secretary of State Tillerson, and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The extensive video library available on Mr. Trump shows this as far back as his early days as host of “The Apprentice.”

One can’t help but wonder what a handshake between Trump and Putin might look like?

Most recently, Donald Trump shared a 19-second handshake with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in another illustration of the narcissistic power grab, but what was intriguing about this particular shake was the behavior of both men during the nearly 20-second clasp. The two appeared to be playing an awkward game of tug-of-war and Trump again pulls off three yanks and slaps the top of PM Abe’s hand several times.

It does not take a very deep analysis of this behavior to see that the president (who admires dictators) believes that he can forcefully grab what he wants: power, money, women, individual rights, or authoritarian rule.

My point is this, much like the president’s use of capital letters and exclamation points in his tweets and his reliance on “alternative facts,” the “grab and yank” is nothing more than a bully move. More often than not, there is nothing to back it up.

Prime Minister Abe knew this and showed it when he turned and rolled his eyes after extracting himself with a forced smile. Paul Ryan and many in the GOP have also turned and rolled their eyes with forced grins during the first 22 days of the Trump presidency.

I hope we can follow the lead of the marchers and the 9th Circuit Court and continue to resist in the face of these jarring power grabs.