The origins of handshakes are interesting. They were originally a sign between medieval knights (or ancient Greeks, depending on who is telling the story) to show that they were approaching each other unarmed. Handshakes have remained a way in which people broker relationships, seal agreements, and otherwise commit to honorable action.
Nowadays handshakes are common in business networking, and is one of the few forms of physical contact that we experience in the networking world. It is good to have a solid handshake because it is part of the all-important 90 second “first impression” that people make of you, and a lot can be communicated through this one action.
- Extend your right hand, palm vertical to the ground. If you want, you can tilt your palm slightly toward the sky to indicate openness, humility, and the desire to help.
- Handshakes should be dry. If you have a problem with clammy hands try to wipe them off before you shake. Men can get away with carrying a handkerchief in their pockets and discretely drying their hands before they shake.
- Use a firm grip, making sure not to be too weak or too strong.
- Pump the handshake two or three times from your elbow and forearm, not your shoulder or upper arm. Water pump motion is uncomfortable, jolting, and aggressive to your partner.
- The handshake should last 3-4 seconds, and should end before your oral greeting does.
- Signal you are ready to release by relaxing your hand, but if your partner is a longer shaker just hang in there until they are done. You can come off as rude by pulling away before they release.
- Remember: not everyone likes to shake hands! If you are unsure if someone wants to shake hands then it is okay to pause and wait for them to extend their hand or not.
It’s not just about the hand-to-hand contact! Other important parts of a good handshake include good eye contact, a warm smile, confident posture, and a step in toward the person you are making contact with (without getting too close). Also remember that if you are sitting, you should stand up to shake hands as a sign of respect. Greeting before and during the handshake.
Neuroscience has proven time and again that an impressive handshake leaves people with a better impression of you. Now, this doesn’t mean certain actual personalities use certain shakes, but this doesn’t stop people from making assumptions. Make sure to avoid these handshake “types”:
Handshake types to avoid:
- The Crusher: Both the “finger crusher” and “bone crusher” variety happen when your grip is too strong. Seriously, don’t crush someone’s hand! If you squeeze too tight they will likely spend your whole pitch time thinking about the pain in their hand rather than actually listening to what you do. These people come off as well-meaning, but overenthusiastic person.
- The Dead Fish: This is what people call the handshake that has no grip and no pumping action. It is basically placing your hand in theirs. People with dead fish handshake are perceived of as unemotional and apathetic with low self-esteem.
- The Monarch (also known as Lady Fingers): Offering of just the fingertips shows either superiority, or extreme shyness. Can often be accompanied with the “polite pinch”.
- The Double Hander (also known as the Politician): Using your other hand to clamp on to the top of their hand, or to even grab their elbow. This is too much contact for just meeting someone. It can make you seem overwhelming, overbearing, and too intimate. It can also make you seem too eager to sell something.
- The Palm Down (or “Coming from Above”): When your hand ends approaches or ends up on top of the other person’s it appears you are attempting to be authoritative and coming off as aggressive. This can sometimes start as a normal handshake and turn into “the twister” when the other person’s hand ends up on top.
Practice your handshake on friends, coworkers, or colleagues and ask them for their honest opinion. It might seem silly, but it is a great way to find ways to improve if you’ve never gotten feedback from anyone on your handshake. It’s the best way to figure out your grip if you are otherwise unsure! You will have a great handshake for Ottawa Networking events in no time!