A person’s handshake says worlds about them, and the handshake is a major factor in the way each participant thinks about the other.
Before delving into some great handshake “how to” advice, let’s consider mistakes to avoid.
Limp: A limp handshake gives the impression of being weak. I think that it goes without saying that the limp shake is a dud. What’s the point of shaking hands in the first place if it’s just going to be a limp experience anyhow?
Too Much Shake: A handshake with too much shake can come across as annoying, inappropriate, and socially inept.
The Finger Grabber: Have you ever shaken hands with a person and instead of properly interlocking their hands with yours they only clasped your fingers? I hate that one; it’s weird.
Then there types of people that take advantage of the handshake as an opportunity to establish their domination.
The Arm Wrestler: The way that “arm wrestler” hand shakers operate is by trying to get their hand on top of the other persons, either by extending their hand with their palm facing downward initially so that the other person will be “pinned”‘ from the get-go, or by finagling their hand on top after the initial contact. The “arm wrestler” handshake seems immature and doesn’t inspire friendship; it simply says that the perpetrator is trying to play mind games with you. I tend to avoid these people the most.
Overbearing: Although someone who squeezes just a little too hard might just be trying too hard to do it right, they give off the impression of being overbearing and aggressive.
The right way to do it
Now that we have established a few of the wrong ways to shake a hand, let’s look deeper into best handshake practices.
- Eye contact: This displays confidence and establishes a personal connection.
- Firm clasp: This also displays confidence and establishes a personal connection.
- Speak during the handshake: Saying something as simple as, “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, John Doe,” goes a long way. It brings the physical handshake to a new level, adding verbal and emotional elements to the process.
- Use your left hand too (optional): Using your left hand to touch the shoulder or double clasp the handshake makes the experience a more intimate one. Do this only if the intimacy will be appreciated.
- Time it right: A good shake lasts about 1.5 to 2 seconds. Letting go too early can make it appear that you are not interested in the other person or are disgusted by them, which can be insulting. Continuing the handshake too long can appear intrusive. Getting the timing just right also depends on reading the social cues of the other person to decipher how long they hope to be hand-engaged with you.
Considering how much a handshake communicates about you—and how influential it can be in business, social, and personal relationships—it behooves you to practice getting your handshake just right.
This article originally ran on Ragan.com in October 2013.