Why it’s suddenly okay for world leaders to be seen holding hands

Couples hold hands, parents and children hold hands, giggling girlfriends weaving through the dance floor on a night out hold hands.

Politicians, not so much.

Until now at least. Donald Trump and co can’t get enough of the touchy-feely gesture, with the US Pres grabbing the paw of our own Theresa May before skipping around hand-in-hand with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Even North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has got in on the act, taking South Korean President Moon Jae-in by the hand as they pledged to commit to a ‘peace regime’.

And according to author and body language expert, there’s a lot more to the gesture than simple affection.

Here, she explains what all that touchy-feely carry on really means…


"Hand-holding is a gesture normally associated with romantic young lovers or middle-aged politicians wanting to look loved-up with their spouses in front of the press, but suddenly this teenage gesture is all the rage among male world leaders, even those normally keen to flash their alpha machismo credentials like Trump.

"The man-handling trend seems to have appeared from nowhere, but suddenly they’re all at it, from Macron’s ‘bring your dad to school’-style of leading Trump around like an excited kid to Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-in strolling happily hand-in-hand during their historic meeting and border-crossing.

"One of the first sightings of the ritual came years ago when Mandella visited the UK and walked Tony Blair around the crowds while clutching his hand.

"Blair’s face signalled more than a hint of embarrassment and the viewers’ toes curled in sympathy as he was towed around by the nation’s hero.

"It made Blair look like the small kid with his kindly granddad and many people expected that would be the last time we would see what was deemed an odd gesture on the world’s stage.

"The look resurfaced though when Trump suddenly and rather spontaneously grabbed Theresa May’s hand outside the White House on her first meeting with the new president.

"One minute May was winning the power signal battle with the ‘power-shaking’ alpha silverback Trump, and the next the photos made it look as though they pair were sneaking off on a romantic tryst.

"In reality it was just a brief hand-touch, reportedly to enable the pair to descend a step, but for May the gesture looked as though she might have been overly-obsequious to a controversial new world leader.

"With Macron’s visit though the gesture became firmly written into the repertoire of World Leader meet-and-greet gesticulation.

"His visit to the US involved levels of touch and body language intimacy that raised the political bar to a new level, with the hand-holding becoming the new norm.

"Suddenly the gesture has appeared as a key signal in the historic meeting between the North and South Korean leaders and as political wives like Melania seem keen to rid themselves of the need to flesh-press their spouses in public it seems the guys just can’t get enough of it.



"So what does this new trend of macho hand-holding say about the leaders?

"As a gesture it’s a continuation and elongation of the handshake ritual. It usually starts with the handshake but then the men just don’t seem to want to put one another down.

"As an intentional gesture to the world it suggests deep levels of friendship and even fondness in the case of Macron and Trump, although like most political greeting rituals there’s more nuance there than meets the naked eye.

"Firstly there are the ongoing tie-sign signals between the two men doing it. Hold anyone’s hand – even in a handshake – and you feel you have a sudden insight into their soul. Their hand could be rigid with fear or flaccid and sweaty. They can be quietly crunching your bones in a beefy shake or flopping about like a dead fish. Every little squeeze or flex will signal silently to you and some people use the clasp to choreograph, lead or dictate the direction and movement of the other person.


"Then there are the perceptual power signals as you can use the clasp to show who is top alpha in the relationship. Tow someone along or place your hand on top in the clasp and you can signal dominance, although the height, age and size differences between Trump and Macron flipped that dynamic to allow the silverback Trump to look like an indulgent dad.

"At present the one instigating the clasp will probably show their power and status superiority, but that vanishes if the offer of a hand-hold gets rejected by the other person as has been seen between Trump and his wife.

"The final power-jostle potential comes with the add-ons though. Trump added a parental pat to his handclasp with Macron and Macron fought back with a shoulder-pat on Trump.

"The clasp did get raised to chest height by both men, which made them look like the worthy winners of an arm-wrestling competition and the hands have also been raise by Trump/Macron and the two Korean leaders in a form of celebratory victory salute."

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