How to Have the Perfect Handshake

Well since SHRM has come and gone we’re posting our Manner Monday a tad late, but it’s fitting because today is National Handshake Day! Learn about the handshake as it relates to the workplace! 

The Perfect Handshake

In honor of National Handshake Day,  I thought it would be fun to talk about the importance of a nice firm handshake, and the not-so-good ones.

A handshake is meant to convey trust.  It can also lend an air of equality, provide balance amongst parties, and show respect.  A good handshake sends a great nonverbal message, adding to all of the other components that create a positive first impression.  A poor handshake leaves the person on the receiving end thinking, “ugh”.

A handshake offered in the form of a “limp fish” makes for a less than stellar first impression.  So does the “bone crusher”; the handshake is not an opportunity for you to, literally, exert your power.

Another popular greeting is the “politician”, where the right hand cups over the handshake.  This is a very intimate handshake and should be saved for more personal or social situations – once you’ve gotten to know each other a bit better.  Think of it more as a ‘kiss on the cheek’.

The “fist bump” has gained popularity in casual settings.  While a fist bump can sometimes be an appropriate replacement for a greeting: the business world and formal occasions still require a formal handshake.  Basically, you can’t walk into an interview or business meeting and offer up a fist bump expecting to get the job or seal the deal.

Here are some tips to polish your good old-fashioned handshake to make it shine:

  • Always stand (if able) when shaking someone’s hand.
  • Hands should be clasped, so that the bases of the thumbs meet.  There should be firm pressure, but not too tight (see “bone crusher” above).
  • Make eye contact when shaking hands.
  • When shaking hands with someone in your office, come out from behind your desk.
  • Be patient and give the person you are shaking hands with your attention, don’t look past them to the next person, rushing them along.

Keep in mind; some cultures have different theories on the handshake and initial greetings. If you’re traveling abroad, or doing business with people from another culture, do your research and find out: should you shake, should you bow, or should you kiss on the cheek. Otherwise, you may find yourself making a blunder that could put your business deal in jeopardy before you even have a chance to say “Hello, my name is …”

So the next time you have the opportunity to shake hands, give your self-confidence a boost…look the person in the eye and offer a nice firm handshake – and make a great first impression.

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CareySue Vega

Carey Sue Vega is a business and youth etiquette expert. For ten years, she honed her skills with an international audience as Cruise Director for the Norwegian Cruise Line. Vega has been featured in numerous radio and television shows and magazine articles, sharing her etiquette expertise.  She’s also social savvy with social media. Connect with CareySue.


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