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Your Handshake Speaks: Here’s How To Perfect It

David Law

Wed, 10 Apr, 2019

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 3 minutes

When you were a child, you probably had a secret handshake with a best friend or other. It was fun and it said, ‘We’re friends, see? We do this ritual to reaffirm it!’. Now, in the world of adulting and business, handshakes are more restrained— but they still mean the same: ‘You can trust me, I’m your friend’.


Ideally, handshakes build rapport and confidence in the relationship. But there is more than just one kind of handshake.


Some are like dead fish, lying limp and awkward in your grasp, others are clammy and nervous, and yet others are the greeting equivalent of a chokehold. And each of these handshakes says something about the personality of the human behind it.


Why handshakes matter.


Everyone knows it— first impressions matter. In fact, the people you meet will form a lasting concept of you and your personality in a very literal tenth of a second.


You have one chance to shake a professional contact’s hand for the first time. Only an instant to make them feel welcome, safe, and connected to you. This is a crucial moment: it will define your relationship and the decisions they make with regards to you.


For example, handshakes are essential in an interview. As a hiring manager, you want your candidate to feel safe so they can show their best qualities. As a candidate, you want to display assertiveness and competence while still being friendly.


The perfect handshake— Step by step


How to achieve that perfect handshake balance that says, ‘I’m efficient but approachable’?


First of all, there is a right way to shake hands and it should be common knowledge. Alas, nowhere do they teach proper handshake techniques. But that does not mean they’re any less important.


These 5 steps to the perfect handshake have the potential to change the course of your career.


1. Right hand forward.


If you’re right-handed, you already have an inbuilt advantage. For comfort as well as per tradition, everyone puts their right hand forward. If you accidentally extend your left hand, it can get awkward fast!


To make this first step easier for yourself, free your right hand before walking into the room or approaching the person. Bonus points if you’re the one initiating the handshake.


2. Timing and position.


After extending your right hand forward and initiating the handshake, make sure the position of the hands is normal: thumb to hand, no weird grips.


Also important— don’t hold the other person’s hand for longer than two seconds. As for actually pumping the hand up and down, keep the motion short (about 5 cm in each direction) and do it only once.


3. Back off!


Please, do not cover the handshake with your other hand. That’s only okay when you’ve met someone at least ten times (don’t take our word for it, though).


4. Face value.


As you already know, your facial expression and the look in your eyes say a lot. You need to make sure your face is conveying the same message as your handshake— otherwise, all your work could be for nothing!


The best course of action: as you put your right hand forward, look into the person’s eyes and give them an approachable grin. This says you’re open and available to find friendly solutions together. Don’t overdo it, however, or you could come across as creepy.


5. The talk.


If you shake someone’s hand and say nothing, that also lies under the strange-in-an-unemployable-way category. Instead, introduce yourself during the handshake.


Say something brief, such as, ‘I’m (name), (position) of (business name). Nice to meet you!’.


Now you know that a handshake is a three-part strategy: the right grip, the right expression, and the right words. If you get the combination just right, everyone you meet will remember you and you’ll be getting new opportunities in no time.


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