The Art of the Handshake

A handshake defines you, defines the moment, and can leave a lasting impression – either good or bad. Though it is a subtle gesture, a good handshake is an important tool for young professionals to aid in influencing one’s idea of you. It commands someone to listen to you and follow you. It is a connecting moment with many details that all affect the outcome of the gesture. The movement toward the waiting hand, the grip of the shake, the use of eye contact, and even the rhythm of the shake are all important factors. A handshake is more than just a social obligation; it is a way to convey what you want to the person you are meeting.

Here are some guidelines on the art of the handshake.

When to use a handshake: A handshake is used when you are introduced to someone, when you say goodbye to someone, and to seal the deal in a business context.

When Introducing yourself: Your handshake should be part of your introduction, not a replacement for it. Without the proper oral introduction, a handshake can feel too intimate. Most importantly, listen when the person you are meeting gives you their name. If it helps you to remember it, repeat it after they say it to you.

Be the first to extend your hand: To leave a strong and lasting impression, be the first to offer your hand to create control and portray confidence. If you are shaking hands with an authority figure, you should instead follow their lead and let them put out their hand first.

Extend your right hand perpendicular to the ground: Palms should meet directly. Do not roll your hand sideways.

Take a firm grip on the other person’s hand: Don’t crush too hard, but do not offer the “dead fish grip”. A limp hand is never a good idea, but being too forceful can be uncomfortable and even painful. A general rule is to use the same force that you would when turning a door handle to open a door.

Shake no more than three times: Lingering too long can become awkward and more than three shakes can become annoying, distracting and uncomfortable. A business handshake should be brief and to the point.

Shake from your elbow: To avoid being too overbearing with your handshake, refrain shaking from your shoulder or upper arm.

Eye contact: Eye contact conveys confidence.

Avoid “Lady Fingers”: If you are young professional woman in a business setting, ensure that you extend your entire hand. Do not only offer your fingers as many women do in social settings.

Shake with one hand: For a good business introduction, it is better to use only your right hand. The two-handed “politician’s shake” can be seen as too personal and intrusive.

Dealing with sweaty hands: If you shake hands with someone that has sweaty palms, avoid embarrassing them and do not wipe your hands in front of them. Do so discreetly afterwards or wash them later. If you are prone to sweaty palms, have a handkerchief in your hand as you wait or discreetly wipe your hand behind your leg before you reach out to shake.

A good handshake is an intimate yet subtle act that conveys a message about your personality and confidence level. Especially in business, it is an important tool in creating a favourable impression.


Cover Image from: Pinterest

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