When Handshakes Go Horribly Wrong

First impressions are formed in seven seconds, and handshakes often set the tone in an initial encounter. Therefore, it’s important to get that handshake right.

Your handshake should be firm, quick and confident, but not overpowering. The motion of the shake is up-and-down, not back-and-forth. And, a handshake should only last between 1-3 seconds.

So how do you give an appropriate handshake while avoiding the dainty finger-tipper, the tight-squeezing hand crusher or the “I wanna be cool” fist bumper? Make note of these ideas before greeting people:

No bone crushing. If you’ve ever been the recipient of a crushing handshake, you know that it is no laughing matter. Handshake grip should be no harder than the strength that you would use to hold a door handle. A good rule of thumb is to match your grip to the person you are shaking hands with.

Firm it up. The “limp fish” handshake is on the opposite end of the spectrum. A weak handshake implies that you are nervous, uncertain or uninvolved. If you are unsure if your handshake is limp, ask to practice with a few friends until you get your grip right.

Dry hands, please. If you are nervous about introductions, you may end up with cold, clammy or sweaty hands. Keep a paper towel in your pocket to discreetly wipe off sweaty palms. Avoid carrying a cold drink in your right hand if you know that you will be meeting and greeting people.

Don’t miss your opportunity. “The miss” is a handshake that somehow doesn’t quite come together. Perhaps you went to shake handsbut ended up shaking fingers, or maybe you clumsily shook hands and couldn’t wait to pull your hand away. Regardless of the problem with the handshake, know that the other person probably feels just as uncomfortable. End the shake and get it right the next time.

Make eye contact. Not making eye contact during a handshake implies that you are not being forthcoming with the other person. If your lack of eye contact is due to social anxiety, practice looking at a spot between the eyes so that you at least give the appearance of meeting the other person’s gaze.

In the end, knowing how to shake hands properly is a skill that requires practice. Shake hands when you have the opportunity, and in time it will become as second nature as saying, “thank you.”

Greetings etiquette varies across different cultures. Learn some common greeting rituals in other countries in this blogpost from Dardis Communications.