A handshake is the first and only physical touch that is welcomed in business in the U.S. In a matter of seconds, your handshake will
signal friendliness, hospitality, openness, confidence and respect, as well as contempt, ridicule, competitiveness and control.
It is used to:
- open and close business deals
- make an introduction
- welcome or greet someone
- extend an invitation into someone’s personal space
- and also as a sign of departure.
Here are the types of handshakes to avoid:
- The Wet Noodle – A limp, wet noodle handshake usually indicates nervousness, a lack of confidence, disrespect or uncertainty.
- The Aristocrat – A person who feels superior will likely grab your hand and attempt to turn it so that their palm is on top of yours. Also offering your hand with your palm up suggests you are willing to assume a subordinate role.
- The Crusher – A crushing handshake may indicate someone who is controlling or uncaring and conveys a message that the person is domineering, forceful and feels superior. A strong person should ensure that the strength of their handshake is not overwhelming. There is also the potential that someone is so strong or friendly they simply do not realize the strength of their own handshake.
- The Politician – The handshake that suggests intimacy is commonly referred to as the politician’s handshake. A person who is trying to “win your favor or vote” will grasp the right hand of the other person and then cup the clasped hands with their own left hand. This person is anxious to have a familiar relationship without any basis and is often perceived as phony. This particular handshake is only acceptable (at least in the United States) for people who already know one another. There is a risk of offending the other individual by being overly personal before it is appropriate.
Here are some guides to help with your handshake
- Clean, dry hands are key. If you have eaten or your palms are sweaty, wash and dry them completely. Since most people are right handed, hold a drink in your left hand so you do not extend a wet, cold hand, or find yourself needing to wipe your hand on your clothes.
- A smile and eye contact are two necessary companions to the handshake. A smile indicates friendliness and direct eye contact suggests a genuine desire to meet someone.
- When a man offers a woman a weak handshake, it may signify disrespect, a lack of confidence, not wanting to injure her or a cultural difference demonstrating respect by being gentle. A woman should initiate her own firm handshake, regardless of the man’s approach. When a woman offers another woman a weak handshake, it is usually a sign of low self-esteem.
- A proper handshake engages the entire hand, mirroring and matching the other person’s grip, thus creating instant rapport.
- A proper handshake, as perceived by the recipient, can make someone more willing to listen and pay attention to you. The more conscious you are of your handshake, the more you will realize it is more than just a handshake….more than just a socially expected or dictated gesture. It is a transference of who you are.