Here’s a question I get asked from time to time: in business, should a handshake deal be enough?

In the end, if I had a legal document and somebody wanted to cheat me, they could figure out ways to get around it. They could throw a bunch of stuff at the wall in court, and who knows what might happen.

That’s why integrity is so important. You need to be able to look somebody in the eye and know that you are going to be able to work together over a long period of time. And then, if people show through their actions that that’s not the case, you need to move away from them quickly. You must be around people who do what they say.

Here’s some more about the pros and cons of “handshake deals” in business.

First, on the positive side, a handshake is a powerful gesture to create a rapport and trust between business partners or colleagues. It is a physical connection that is more impactful than words, because it conveys a sense of commitment and sincerity. The act of shaking hands can create a personal connection that sets a positive tone going forward. In fact, in many cultures, a handshake is viewed as a formal way to greet people and initiate business discussions.

Furthermore, a handshake can be a time-efficient way to seal a deal or agreement. Negotiations can be complicated and drag on for a long time, and a handshake serves as a quick and decisive way to convey mutual understanding and acceptance. It can be especially crucial in situations where time is of the essence, and a lengthy written agreement may not be practical.

However, the simplicity of a handshake can also be its downfall. In the complicated world of modern business, agreements and partnerships often involve complex details and legalities that a simple handshake cannot entirely cover. Verbal agreements, including those symbolized by a handshake, may not be clear or specific enough to navigate today’s business environment.

In addition, cultural differences might end up playing a significant role in how a handshake is interpreted. While it may be a standard practice in many Western cultures, in some Eastern cultures handshakes aren’t all that powerful and alternative forms of greeting may be preferred. Relying solely on a handshake may overlook these cultural nuances, and that may ultimately lead to misunderstandings or discomfort.

To add another layer to this conversation, we must be mindful of technology and remote communication. We live in an era of virtual meetings and digital transactions, and physical handshakes may not always be feasible. Business dealings now often take place across borders and time zones, making face-to-face interactions less common. In such cases, relying on a handshake alone may not even be possible.

In conclusion, while a handshake in business can set a positive tone and holds symbolic value, its value is situationally dependent. In simple, straightforward agreements, a handshake may be good enough. However, for more complex deals or in a globalized business landscape, you often need to supplement this gesture with clear written agreements, legal documentation, and an understanding of cultural variations.

Striking the right balance between tradition and modernity ensures that business interactions are professional, legally sound, and culturally sensitive.