Movers & Shakers – The Anatomy of a Handshake

by Laura Kronen on August 21, 2010

Movers & ShakersIt’s happened to all of us. You walk into a meeting, extend your arm to shake your colleagues hand and are greeted with what I like to call “the dead fish”- a handshake that is loose, and usually points slightly downward. Or else you are given the “girly shake”- just the fingers and not the whole hand. Limp handshakes tend to communicate timidity, passivity or intimidation or project a sense of distance and an “I don’t want to touch you” attitude.  It is not pleasant and no one, including women, is exempt from this rule.

Throughout history the handshake has been used in so many ways, to say hello, to say goodbye, to show good faith, and to close deals. In fact, they were originally used as a way to prove you had no weapons in your hand when meeting someone new. You need to have a handshake that is solid and shows that you mean business. In so many instances it is serving as your first impression and you do not get a second chance at giving that. And, did you know that people are more apt to remember you if they shook your hand, than if it never happened? That’s reason enough to greet someone with a good shake.

Here are some tips on making sure that you show determination and strength in your hand to hand greeting:

Be First
Shake firm and with energy. The perfect handshake exudes a friendly attitude but yet shows you mean business. Usually the person that extends their hand first has the “power” in the relationship, so try to be that person.

Form and Function
Hold your arm out straight and with your thumb pointing up. When you slide your hand into the other persons give it two to three pumps. Do not squeeze too hard, you could actually break a bone or hurt someone depending on their medical conditions. Also be mindful if you are wearing any large rings because those can also hurt a person!

When shaking hands to congratulate someone, you can put your hand on top of the hands that are being shook. It indicates pride, warmth and sharing. But be careful to use this only with people you know well because it can seem overpowering for some.

If your palms are sweaty try to dry them first, there’s nothing worse than a cold clamy hand.

Look ‘em in the Eye
Make eye contact when shaking, have a smile on your face and greet the person by name.

Don’t Dominate

This one is for the men. It is not a contest to see who has a stronger grip. Save that for non business situations and illustrate your alpha male with just friends or competitors, or you will sent a confrontational tone for your entire relationship.


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