Have you been giving dead fish handshakes since entering the business world? According to Urban Dictionary, a dead fish handshake is the ultimate faux pas in handshaking etiquette.
A dead fish handshake, unsurprisingly, feels like you are holding a dead fish.
If someone recognizes that you have this handshake, you must immediately revise it, or else, be perceived as вЂњwimpy.вЂќ
The last thing you need after meeting someone for the first time is for your new business acquaintance to relay to his friends and colleagues behind closed doors, or at the water cooler, thatВ you have a weak handshake. Talk about a bad first impression!
This subject matter hits close to home. At the age of 13, as a fresh-faced teenager, I finished shooting a round of golf with several of my friends. I was too young to drive the golf cart, so we walked the 18 holes and I was exhausted after finishing.
The ranger by the clubhouse stuck out his right hand for me to shake while he simultaneously asked me how I had played. Before I could respond, he looked me straight in the eyes and asked, вЂњWho the hell taught you how to shake someoneвЂ™s hand?вЂќ
I was completely caught off guard and stood speechless. Barely five feet tall and 100 pounds at the time, I had never been criticized so harshly for my weak handshake. I vowed to myself that moving forward, this would never happen again.
DonвЂ™t get caught with the dead fish handshake like I did. Here are five things to remember when you grasp someoneвЂ™s hand.
1. Eye Contact
Many people put so much effort into the strength of a handshake, but completely forget about maintaining eye contact.
Maintaining solid eye contact throughout the entire handshake process is crucial. According to Evenisis.com, in all instances, we use our eyes as a level of communication with the other person. We also avoid a direct look from another person if we have something to hide.
When you are meeting someone for the first time, you donвЂ™t have anything to hide. Look the person directly in the eyes and donвЂ™t be the first person to look away!
According to WedMD, your smile can attract more than admiring looks. A smiling face tells people youвЂ™re an outgoing and intelligent person who is worth getting to know.
When you meet someone for the first time and go in for the handshake, these are all qualities you should want to portray. In the business world, people areВ more likely to want to work with you if they believe you are happy and outgoing.
Unless the moment is somber, smile when you are shaking someoneвЂ™s hand.
3. Right Amount Of Strength
When you are getting ready to participate in the ultimate greeting, the handshake, you donвЂ™t need to give the death grip. YouвЂ™re not Hulk Hogan. On the contrary, you donвЂ™t want to come off with a clammy handshake, either.
Dummies.com outlines how to master the handshake, instructing readers to make sure both hands are pushed all the way in to meet web-to-web and theВ thumbs are facing straight up. This will result in the perfect amount of force on your handshake.
4. Proper Length
Who can forget that awkward handshake from your grandparent’s friend that went on six or seven seconds longer than it should have?
If you want to count, a good handshake is held for three or four seconds. Anything longer than that can send the wrong impression and become uncomfortable.
An important business meeting can definitely get the blood pressure racing. This can result in sweaty palms.
When you are about to indulge in a significant handshake, you donвЂ™t want to come off as the awkward teenager, who is so nervous before prom that his hands sweat profusely when he tries to put the corsage on his date.
Make sure you put your hands in your pockets or wipe them off so they are at a comfortable level before going in for the handshake. WomenInBusiness.comВ reports you should imagine you are opening a door handle and use about the same level of grip in your handshake.
Your business associate or client will compliment your handshake if you follow the five steps referenced above.
DonвЂ™t let the ranger (or business associate, in your case) catch you with the вЂњdead fish.вЂќ Otherwise, it can lead to a demoralizing and unforgettable point in your life that youвЂ™ll wish you could reverse.
- Pin it
It has been said that people get an impression of you within the first few seconds. Usually this isn’t so important, this impression can adapt and change after a few seconds. But there are times, for example, before a job interview or meeting someone important that you want to impress, where the first impression is the most important.
In these situations it is important to show self confidence and openness, and this can be achieved with a great confident handshake.
A handshake can tell a lot about the power relationships
The history of the handshake  actually goes back many centuries, to ancient Greece, where people would shake each others hands as a way to express trust, as shaking hands demonstrates that neither side is carrying a weapon.
Whilst now, there is no thought that anyone might be carrying a weapon, many people believe that the way you shake someone’s hand tells them a lot. Some feel that the way people interact with each other boil down to power relationships  . With this in mind it can be very important to get right.
Be the one to initiate it, it shows that you’re confident and have greater power
One of the most important things to consider in handshakes is who should initiate it. Really there are two schools of thought. It’s felt that the person of higher power and rank  should initiate the handshake, for example: the hiring manager in a job interview. Waiting for the other to initiate the handshake may show deference and respect on your part, however this could be at the cost of your appearance of confidence. Indeed, being the first to initiate the handshake in some circumstances may be seen as bold and a great expression of confidence on your part.
Ensure power balances: mimic the other person’s body language
Thinking back to the idea that human interaction is based on power relations and power balances, there is a way to maintain a good balance of power in a handshake. This can be especially important when you think the other person will try to show a degree of dominance.
President Trump’s  super macho handshake has now become legend, when Trump shake hands he maintains contact for an unexpectedly long amount of time, and halfway through the shake pulls the other person inward. This is Trump subconsciously telling the other person that he is more powerful.
Recently Trump attempted this on Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, and an unexpected thing happened. When Trump placed his hand on Trudeau’s shoulders, Trudeau did the same, when Trump tried to Pull Trudeau inwards, Trudeau resisted. Essentially Trudeau mimicked Trump’s body language and in doing so, the balance of power was maintained with neither man coming across as dominant. In resisting Trump, Trudeau gained a great deal of international respect.
Stand to show respect
Two of the most important parts of delivering a strong, confident handshake happens before your hands make contact. Firstly, it’s always a good idea to stand up to shake the person’s hand. This is especially vital if you are sitting and they are not, as standing up first is both considered polite  , and is a good gesture of respect.
Maintain firm eye contact when shaking hands
As soon as someone initiates the handshake, until the handshake stops it’s a good idea to maintain eye contact. This is easy when there’re no other people in the room, or you don’t need to shake hands with anyone else, however if you were to look away or (worse) look at someone else, the other person will think you don’t find them interesting or not worthy of your full attention. At best they may feel you aren’t confident, and this can be equally damaging.
Maintaining eye contact has many benefits, not only do you show the other person that they have your undivided attention, but it also shows confidence as many find maintaining eye contact difficult. Fascinatingly, research  has shown that the connection made when people look into each others eyes is so strong that we remember people’s faces more (great for job interviews!) and subconsciously consider them more sophisticated and outgoing. We think the opposite of people who avoid eye contact.
It’s arguably the most important part of a handshake and it has nothing to do with shaking hands.
When making eye contact make sure you give them a warm and genuine smile. A true smile is shown in the eyes as much as the lips. Any nervousness or fear you might have will be detected even if you are making sure to move your lips in the appearance of a smile.
A Moderate Grip (Not Too Tight, Not Too Loose)
When shaking their hand make sure your grip is firm, avoid limpness at all costs. You were probably expecting this bit of advice, it is without a doubt the most repeated bit of advice in the world of handshakes. Its popularity is testament to its importance. Yet so many people get it wrong and instead of being firm, they instead deliver a superhuman death grip.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that if the other person leaves the handshake in physical pain, it wasn’t a good one. Instead make sure to give the other person a little squeeze, unless their handshake is limp, a good idea is to match the pressure that they are giving.
A handshake is more than just a greeting. It is also a message about your personality and confidence level. In business, a handshake is an important tool in making the right first impression.
While the art of handshaking does vary within cultures, in the United States the “rules” are pretty universal.
Begin With an Oral Introduction of Yourself
Before extending your hand, introduce yourself. Extending your hand should be part of a business introduction, not a replacement for using your voice. Extending your hand without a voice greeting may make you appear nervous or overly aggressive.
Pump Your Hand Only 2-3 Times
A business handshake should be brief and to the point. Consider a handshake a short “sound bite” greeting, not a lengthy engagement. Holding on for more than three or four seconds can make other people feel uncomfortable.
Shake From Your Elbow
If you shake from the shoulder, using your upper arm instead of just your forearm, you risk jolting your handshake partner. The idea is to connect, not be overbearing.
Do Not Use a Forceful Grip
A handshake should be a friendly or respectful gesture, not a show of physical strength. An uncomfortable handshake is never a pleasant experience for anyone. Imagine you are opening a door handle and use close to the same level of grip in your handshake.
Avoid Offering a “Fish Hand”
A limp hand is never a good idea when it comes to a business handshake. Do return the grip, but do not get into a power struggle, even if the other person squeezes too hard.
Forget “Lady Fingers”
It is not a Southern cotillion; this is business. Offering only your fingers to shake may be appropriate in some social settings, but in business settings, you are an equal, not a “lady.” Extend your entire hand, and be sure to grasp using your entire hand as well.
One Hand Is Better Than Two
Avoid the urge to handshake with two hands. It is always better in business introductions to only use one hand—your right hand—for the shake. The use of two hands with strangers is seen as intrusive, and too personal. In fact, a two-handed shake is called the “politician’s shake,” because it appears artificially friendly when used on people you barely know.
Shaking a Sweaty Hand
If you shake hands with someone who has sweaty palms, do not immediately wipe your hands on your clothing, handkerchief, or tissue. It will further embarrass the other person, who is probably already aware they have sweaty hands. You can discretely wipe them on something after you are out of sight and wash them later.
Ending a Handshake
End the handshake after 3-4 seconds or 2-3 pumps. To avoid creating an awkward moment, your shake should end before the oral introduction exchange does. Without conversation taking place during the entire handshake, it becomes too intimate and can feel more like hand-holding.
Covering Your Mistakes
Even if you make a mistake, do not panic. There are many ways to save the moment. If you are worried that your handshake did not convey the right message about yourself, simply change the focus of the moment by offering a quick compliment or asking the other person a question.
Delivering an appropriate hand shake is more than a simple physical contact, which can usually make or break your foremost impression on a person.
A weak handshake thatâ€™s too feeble can express your weakness or lack of confidence in yourself.
A well-executed hand shake is anything which can express your self confidence, faith and a genuine interest in other person.
Understanding the exact way to shake someoneâ€™s hand can signify the difference between accomplishments and failures in normal business environments.
Positive as well as negative reactions are almost instantaneous and typically depend on first impressions. This is the reason why your eye contact, firmness or weakness of handshake and also your dominance plays a vital role in making a good impression.
Start with a perfect eye contact and a warm smile!
Handshake is not just a simple physical sign; rather it is more about connecting one person to another. It is considered as a way of greeting a person physically in order to express your feeling of pleasure when you meet a particular person. The best way to express your pleasure can be with your face and also eyes.
So, try to offer a handshake with a perfect eye contact with the other person and with a pleasing smile on your face. Remember to maintain eye contact throughout the shake.
Give a complete handshake!
Try to keep your hand open and ensure that your handshake must be a handshake, but not a palm or finger shake. Hold with your complete hand and make it stiff without crushing.
A good practice for this is to ask your friend in practicing your handshake grip. Always try to use only one hand, as using both of your hands can express resentment or intent to overwhelm.
Give a smooth yet confident shake!
Donâ€™t show over excitement or enthusiasm while offering handshake. Try to handle it as smooth as possible and also with great confidence levels.
Other tips to follow while anticipating a handshake!
- If you are carrying any food or drink in your hand, try to hold it in your weak hand to avoid a damp hand while shaking. If you have caught with any kind of food in your shaking hand, try to set it down if it is convenient, or else try to convey apologies for having full hands.
- If you tend to have cold hands naturally, always try to keep your hands in pocket, in order to warm it up before delivering handshake.
- Avoid delivering handshake with damp and moist hands and particularly if you have sweaty hands naturally. Try to put some antiperspirant on your hands before you offer any handshake.
Always remember not try to correct any one if they have offered you a poor handshake. These are certain essential tips which you need to follow while offering a handshake to any one. Try to follow these simple tips to make an impression.
Unforgettable Personal Experience
A man in his early 50s walked into the meeting room. He extended his arm after making an eye contact with me. Without putting excessive force, he grasped my hand firmly and shook it with a gentle smile on his face.
“Wow…This guy must be very powerful!”
That’s the first impression that I’ve of him. At that moment only I realized that a good handshake can give such an astounding impact. It may sound a bit exaggerating. But I never imagine that a handshake can invoke someone’s emotions on a profound level. I met the wise man when I was still doing audit as my full-time job. He’s the CEO of a private company.
In contrast to another encounter with a senior management client, he only grasped my fingers for a brief second when I reached out to him for a handshake. That was really awful. I felt embarrassed and unwelcomed regardless whether it was intentional or not.
Since then, not only I’ve been trying to perfect my handshake. But I also started observing how do others typically give a handshake during various occasions when I encounter with different people. Be it a business meeting or a social networking event.
The Importance of a Good Handshake
Do you still remember your last handshake with someone? Probably not, if most were just normal handshakes. But how about those bad ones? I bet you can remember those pretty well. A wet and sweaty handshake? Or a weak one like dead fish?
Handshake is a form of non-verbal communication that speaks louder than words. For decades, handshaking represents a customary practice that plays a vital role in our social culture. It solidifies relationships, forms connections and builds trust between people. At times, it also signifies historic moments.
Why is a Handshake so Important?
More often than not, you always start a conversation with a handshake with someone who probably isn’t close to you. It could be during a business meeting, a job interview or meeting your parents-in-law for the very first time.
A handshake forms the first impression. And you will never get a second chance. In the span of a few seconds, it speaks volumes about you. It reflects your personal characteristics and sets the tone for the rest of the encounter.
A good handshake may even help you seal a deal without you knowing it. Even if it fails to give a good impression, you wouldn’t want to screw up just because of a bad handshake.
Bad Handshakes to Avoid
No doubt a good handshake should be a firm one to reflect your confidence. But it may portray you as an aggressive person if you overdo it. It also shows arrogance and being commandeering. In response, people may quickly put themselves in a defensive mode. It’s worse if you exert too much pressure to the extent that it hurts.
The Limp Noodle
You should also avoid giving an overly weak handshake. Imagine someone extends his/her hand to you without putting any effort. And the person barely shakes your hand when you grasp his/her palm. It gives an impression that the person either lacks confidence or simply shows disinterest in the meetup.
The Clammy Handshake
The worst that I’ve ever experienced was a handshake with someone offering a clammy right-hand. “Eeuw! It’s disgusting!” Sometimes we may get sweaty palms during nail-biting events. It’s not entirely our fault as the Eccrine sweat glands in our hands start functioning when we’re stressed or nervous. But you definitely wouldn’t want to ruin someone’s mood with a clammy hand even before a conversation starts. Always carry a packet of pocket tissue which might come in handy during such occasion.
How to Get It Right
Before meeting someone for the first time, always keep your right hand free. A typical situation to avoid is when you’re holding a stack of documents with your left hand, you occupy your right hand with a cup of hot coffee.
At the very last minute, some people always tend to have the urge to answer the call of nature before meeting an important person. Probably it’s due to nervousness or just to make sure every strand of his/her hair is in perfect shape. Whatever it is, always keep your right hand dry and clean. Avoid rubbing your hand hastily on your pants before shaking someone’s hand.
Extend your hand and look into the person’s eyes. Eye contact makes a difference. It shows your respect and appreciation. Use your right hand to make a full contact with the person’s palm. Hold the person’s hand firmly with a gentle squeeze but not too hard. A firm handshake reflects your confidence which helps you gain trust from the person. Smile gently while shaking your hand with one or two pumps. A good handshake generally lasts only 2 – 3 seconds. It makes people feel creepy if you’re perceived to be overenthusiastic.
Undeniably there are cultural differences in greetings. From handshaking, to high-fives, to bowing, to a more macho style of fist-bumping and many more…However, handshaking is undoubtedly the universal form of greeting that is often underrated. It doesn’t require any specialized knowledge. And yet, many people only see it as a trivial formality. If you are already convinced that a good handshake makes a difference, start practicing and get feedback from your friends and family. Make your handshaking from awkward to awesome!
Whether you’re first meeting someone or greeting them for the hundredth time, a good handshake is important. A strong shake conveys confidence, strength, warmth, honesty, and a host of other good character traits. The fact that well-executed handshakes create a positive first impression isn’t just anecdotally true, either, but has even been born out by several research studies.
So if you want to learn how to impress compadres and strangers alike, we offer this complete multi-media guide to giving a great handshake.
How to Give a Great Handshake: An AoM Instructional Film
The Full-Text Instructions
Giving a successful and confident handshake boil down to these 3 keys:
- How you do it
- When you do it
- Where you do it
- Make sure your handshake is firm and not a dead fish grip. However, you don’t want to crush the other person’s hand with a death grip.
- Go for the “web touch.” You want the webbing between your thumb and index finger to meet the same spot on the other person’s hand.
- Make sure you don’t have food or grease on your hands. You want the person to remember you, not what you ate.
- If your hands are sweaty, give them a quick nonchalant wipe on your pants.
- When you offer your hand, look the person in the eye and smile.
A good handshake requires good timing. At a party or social event, make sure to shake the host’s hand when arriving and leaving. Shake hands with anyone you’re meeting for the first time, as well friends, family, and acquaintances with whom you don’t feel close enough for hugging to seem appropriate.
Many people avoid offering handshakes because they’re afraid of being left hanging. If you’re not sure if someone will notice your offer, extend your hand anyways. Most of the time people will notice your handshake offer and quickly grasp your hand.
So what if you are left hanging?
I hate when this happens, especially when everyone but the person with whom you were trying to shake hands saw the rejection. Don’t feel embarrassed. The problem isn’t that the other person doesn’t think you’re important, but simply that you’re timing was off. Remember the following tips:
- Don’t offer a handshake if the other person is engrossed in conversation with someone else.
- Don’t approach someone from the side with your extended hand. It’s hard to see.
- Audibly greet the person to get their attention and then offer your hand.
Also be aware of varying social norms. Most cultures have different customs for when and if to shake hands. In our culture, for example, you typically want to wait to see if a woman offers her hand first, instead of initiating the shake yourself. In other cultures, shaking hands with a woman is never appropriate. Be aware of these and other cultural differences, especially when you travel.
Handshakes are good everywhere! Make sure to shake plenty of hands when you go to any social gathering, religious function (again, being sensitive to varying customs), family reunion, wedding, etc. Be liberal with your handshakes, and you’ll perfect the art in no time.
Do you ever wonder what to do when you first meet someone? Should you extend your hand or wait for the other person to do so? These are common questions most people have.
It’s important to learn the proper way to shake hands because making a good first impression is essential in many social and business situations. A combination of good timing and proper technique will elevate you in the eyes of the person you are shaking hands with.
Shaking a person’s hand allows you to establish your friendliness and accessibility, whether you are meeting your neighbors or starting a new job. Practice with friends or family members before you start shaking the hands of strangers. Remember that people often initially judge you by your handshake, so make sure it shows your confidence and pleasant personality.
Occasions you will need to shake hands:
- Initial introduction
- Job interview
- Seeing someone you haven’t seen in a long time
- Greeting guests when you are the host or hostess
- Greeting a host or hostess when you are the guest
- Saying goodbye to a friend or business associate
- Meeting in-laws or future family members
- Whenever someone else extends his or her hand
Here are some handshake etiquette tips to help you learn how to shake hands the right way.
Know When to Initiate
The person in a higher position of authority or age should be the first one to extend a hand. For example, if you are interviewing for a job, the interviewer should be the one to take the lead. When meeting future in-laws, the father-in-law should start the handshake.
If you make a mistake and initiate it, don’t withdraw your hand because that would be rude and might be awkward. Always follow through with a handshake. Smile and continue with the introduction. Don’t apologize.
Stand and Look the Person in the Eye
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Thomas Barwick / Getty Images
If you are sitting, rise before extending your hand. This shows respect and puts you on the same level as the other person. Make eye contact and offer a sincere smile to show that you are happy to be where you are.
Be still and face the other person to prevent giving the impression that you are in a hurry to get away. If you are walking, try to stop, turn, and face the other person, unless it creates an awkward situation.
Offer a Greeting Before and During
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Portra Images / Getty Images
When your palms are damp, you can delay extending your hand if you introduce yourself while blotting your palm on the side of your slacks or skirt. Your greeting should include his or her name and a pleasantry, such as, “It’s so nice to meet you, Ms. Jones.” If you have more nice things to say, include them at this time. Don’t go overboard and gush, or you may make the other person uncomfortable.
To remember the other person’s name, you might want to say it several times during the conversation: once during the initial handshake, shortly afterward, and again while shaking his or hand before you part ways. This will make a very strong, positive impression because people like knowing you care enough to remember their names.
Your Handshake Should be Firm but Not Crushing
You don’t want to offer a limp hand because it gives the impression of weakness. However, this does not mean you should crush the other person’s hand. Be firm but not overpowering. If the other person offers a limp hand, give a gentle squeeze. This can be a cue for him or her to grip more firmly.
You’re probably aware of the importance of making a good first impression, right? Once an employer has evaluated the way you present yourself, what’s the next thing you will be judged on? That’s right, your handshake.
Make sure your handshake is firm and dry; this will allow you to make a good first impression. I have shaken a lot of hands in my career and can now group them into five categories based on different characteristics. Insights will be given on what handshakes project confidence and which ones don’t for each of these categories.
the wet one
There are many repulsive handshakes, the wet one probably being the worst handshake around, so try to keep your palms dry. People get nervous, especially before an interview, so just remember to keep your hands dry and wipe your sweaty palms.
Here are two tips in order to keep your hands dry.
1. Wash your hands before going to the interview and keep your palms open until the time comes to shake hands with the employer. Make sure not to close your fists, because that’s what generates the heat and sweat.
2.Wipe your hands before the handshake. Carry a Kleenex to wipe your hands, as this will help you absorb the excess moisture and allow you to give a dry handshake.
A soft handshake demonstrates weakness, lack of confidence, lack of interest, and lack of masculinity. These are obviously the opposites of power and strength, important attributes in respected and successful people. I would suggest that if you do have a weak handshake, firm it up. This will definitely leave a better impression every time you shake hands. Pay attention to how much pressure is applied by the receiver and notice if your handshake is firm enough, then adjust yours accordingly.
I am sure this happened to you before. Someone takes your four fingers, not allowing you to really lock your hand with theirs, and then squeezes your hand hard. That is really frustrating and should be avoided. This can happen easily when rushed or simply by accident. My advice to you is to apologize and ask the person for a second handshake. It might sound awkward, but people actually remember this and will appreciate the respect derived from a real quality handshake.
This type of handshake is classic. You know how guys and their egos are; they have to be the strongest male around. Some guys really like to squeeze your hand as if it was a lemon. Don’t get me wrong, I like a sturdy handshake, but it has to be comfortable to the receiver to some degree. Just save your testosterone for the gym and moderate your grip.
These days, people need a manual to decode some of those weird handshakes. I see kids twiddling, slapping, clicking, and dancing with their fingers, and they actually consider these handshakes. Please grow up and be men. No more hocus pocus; a simple, firm handshake, will do fine.
A handshake is a very simple gesture, but can be a determining factor in interviews and social gatherings. Just make sure you firmly shake the person’s hand and look at them straight in the eye. This is a simple, yet effective tip which will hopefully allow you to make a great first impression.
Your handshake is a convenient personal branding accessory right in the palm of your hand, so use your handshake to leave a great impression. Here’s how.
How important is a handshake as a way to brand yourself?
People shake hands all the time.
Unless your handshake is particularly bad, people will rarely react negatively to it and they’ll ignore the occasional jitter or semi-clasp. But if your handshake is particularly good, you will stand out and people will remember you.
Ultimately- since a handshake is such a basic thing, expectations are relatively low for results. Which also means that the barrier is low to achieve good results.
The best handshake in the world?
A new friend of mine has the best handshake in the world.
The first time I met him and we shook hands, I was wowed.
Here’s what makes so great a handshake like his:
- Softness – nobody likes shaking hands with sandpaper. Although you don’t necessarily need to carry around a bottle of hand moisturizer, at least make sure that your hands aren’t rough to the touch.
- Moisture – without being sandpaper, your hands should be dry and not sweaty or clammy.
- Temperature – your hands should be warm, not cold.
- Texture – do you like shaking hands with someone’s scabs or callouses? Enough said.
- No bandages or casts – you don’t want people to think they might hurt you by shaking your hand.
- Clean – the only thing worse than worrying about hurting someone’s hand is worrying about catching a virus from it like warts, a cold, etc. Even feeling just one Band-Aid is discomforting.
- Few rings to none – the fewer rings there are, the less chance of pinching and hurting someone’s hand.
- Confident reach – don’t wait for someone’s hand to come to yours, reach for theirs and meet it.
- Good timing – lock hands without any jitters or fumbling, sliding one hand into the other. Don’t aim to grasp fingers, aim for the palm.
- Solid grasp – everyone hates the dreaded “dead fish” where someone leaves a limp hand in yours. Do the opposite; clutch the palm without squeezing so hard that it becomes painful for the other.
- Positive – grin or smile while shaking hands.
- Be sincere – don’t just grin or smile, do it like you mean it. A fake smile ruins the whole effect.
- Look them in the eye – the best way to prove you’re being sincere.
- Shake vigor – don’t shake too vigorously, but don’t let them shake your whole arm either.
- Know when to let go – a good shake usually involves a palm squeeze and release, but be careful if the other person is too quick or too slow, which could lead to an awkward moment. Instead, with a confident reach, be first to engage and disengage.
- Syncs with your personal brand – For most people, this just means following all the previous points to being a handshaking professional, but for some people this may mean having a unique handshake or one that’s more in tune with their profession. If a clown always shook hands in a serious way, you’d wonder about his sense of humor.
- Memorable – so few people do this that if anyone ever impresses you with their handshake, you won’t forget them just like with my friend above. If your handshake is memorable, it is successfully building your personal brand.
- Viral – this whole article came about because my friend’s handshake is so terrific I had to tell you about it.
- Encourages loyalty – a great handshake is one that makes people want to shake your hand again. For that, they’ll need to have you around them again.
Are you happy with your handshake?
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Jacob Share, a job search expert, is the creator of JobMob, one of the biggest blogs in the world about finding jobs. Follow him on Twitter for job search tips and humor.
Jacob Share, a job search expert, is the creator of JobMob, one of the biggest blogs in the world about finding jobs. Follow him on Twitter for job search tips and humor.
Table of Contents:
A handshake is how we communicate our first impressions at work. They’re how other people take our measure, and they tell others whether we’re confident or faking it. (Hello, sweaty hands).
We often don’t think about the handshake as a complex set of behavioral tasks, but Denise Dudley, clinical psychologist and author of “Work It! Get in, Get Noticed, Get Promoted,” does and she has broken this critical task for career success into the smallest components anyone of us can do.
“It’s tactile because I’m going to be touching you,” Dudley told Ladders. “It’s visual because you’re going to be looking at me and assessing my face and eye contact. And it’s also auditory because I’m going to be saying my name to you or at least saying the words, ‘hi or hello.’ It’s a bunch of information condensed down to just a few seconds of interaction. It’s how we do a quick assessment of who the other person is.”
Here is the definitive general guide Dudley has studied on how you should handshake in the workplace in the United States:
No matter who’s who, older or younger, the best way to initiate a handshake is to get on your feet and stand in front of the person, if your body is able, Dudley believes.
“It honors the person, it’s the polite thing to do. But more importantly, it puts you in the proper alignment to shake hands,” she said.
2) Square off
You then need to have your shoulders squared off to the person you want to shake hands with, so that you are facing them. When your shoulders are aligned, so are your sympathies.
Aim your right hand towards their right hand and point your thumb towards their shoulder, so it keeps your palm open. As soon as the web of your skin touches theirs, you close your hand around theirs.
Here’s the step where people trip up and make bad handshakes. People can wrongly perform the bone-crusher and squeeze too hard or they can imitate a dead fish and limply let their hands be taken.
A strong handshake, or a weak one, are not coincidences. Instead, they’re reliable body-language signals that tell us what people’s intentions are.
Bone-crushing handshakes are an aggressive action that happen when people want to dominate you or want to remind you that they are more important than you.
Dead-fish handshakes can be equally as bad because they make you a non-participant, and create the impression that you have no personal agency and that you don’t want to be doing this. They also make the person whose hand you’re shaking feel as if you don’t take them seriously and don’t want to commit to anything.
The best, perfect, “hire me” handshake is to close your hand around their hand and “squeeze firmly but gently,” Dudley said. She recommends being on the gentler side if you notice the person is wearing rings on his or her hand.
5) Pump your elbow
“The pump needs to be executed from the elbow,” Dudley said. “We don’t do a pump, an upward and downward motion, from our wrist because that is jarring, and it looks weird and it feels weird. And we don’t want to do it from the shoulder.”
If you initiate a handshake from your shoulder, the see-saw action will yank people off of their feet, and you will come off as a domineering jerk.
Instead, the shoulder should stay stable as the elbow moves.
In the U.S., workers typically pump their hands three times on average, Dudley said, while in several Asian and South American cultures, the pumping hand can come with a slight bow.
6) Make direct eye contact
This is a requirement. You must give people your undivided attention in this one moment. “When we go for a handshake, we look directly in the eyes of the person we’re shaking hands with—and nowhere else. It’s a rule that can’t be broken,” Dudley said. “You don’t look at the next person you’re going to shake hands with, you don’t look down, you look right in their eyes.”
In countries outside of the U.S., you may need to look down as a sign of respect, however. In Japan, infamously, too much eye contact can be read as a sign of aggression.
7) Adopt a neutral or friendly facial expression
Some sort of pleasant facial expression is needed to turn a good handshake into a great one. Smiling is an easy accompaniment to get this across, but you should “at least look pleasant, if you can’t have a smile,” Dudley said.
This too has cultural implications: smiles are rare in the U.K. and France when meeting someone for the first time, and in fact a big open smile there makes people think you’re not that bright or you’re easily fooled. Instead, keep an open, attentive, neutral face, which should work in nearly all countries.
A handshake is not a silent ballet. While all of these unseen behaviors are happening in seconds, you have to keep in mind to say some sort of greeting or if it’s the first handshake, an introduction to who you are.
There are advanced maneuvers like gently touching your other hand on top of your shaking hand as a sign of affection, but you should only do this after you’ve met someone.
Then there are people who go too far: people who take their left hand and clamp it over their right hand that’s shaking yours are not your friend—they want to make you feel trapped.
9) Keep in mind the power dynamics of reciprocal touch
Here’s a harsh truth about humanity: outside of family or very close friends, we touch people more when we think we have more power than they do.
“If you look at who touches whom in the world, children get touched a lot more than adults, women get touched more than men, students get touched more than teachers, patients get touched more than doctors. So in other words, who touches whom is a function of who believes they have the power in the interaction,” Dudley said. “We don’t want to ever touch people in a way that’s non-reciprocal, where they don’t feel free to touch us back.”
That means that when we touch other people, especially at work, we need to make sure it’s in a way that they feel comfortable touching us back.
High-fives and fist bumps are creative handshakes that are acceptable in the workplace because they can be reciprocated: “They’re simply showing who my brothers and sisters and peeps are. It’s a cultural bonding thing,” Dudley said.
Your supervisor patting you on the back for a job well done, however, is a non-reciprocal touch. You can’t pat him on the back too, after all. This interaction, though well-meaning, is non-reciprocal because there’s no way you the employee can pat them back in this power dynamic. Whether or not your touch can be reciprocated is the overarching distinction that should guide what is acceptable and not at work.
Those rules should help you master the handshake that gets you the job. Go forth and practice.