What does your handshake say about you?
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Blog
When I’m speaking to groups, I often test handshakes looking for ones that are good. In a room of 100 people, I’m lucky if I find five people who have a professional, quality handshake. I usually find at least one person who is so mad at me for criticizing his handshake that he complains to the organizer. I’m just trying to help. I’m just trying to ensure that he won’t be the person who’s spoken about in the women’s restroom. Did you shake that guy’s hand? Talk about creepy with a capital C! That conversation is happening more than you know. Do you really want to be that guy?
I’ve had people get mad at me for advising them about how to correctly shake a hand. What makes me an expert? I’ve been on the receiving end of thousands upon thousands of handshakes and the ma-jority of them have been less than impressive. I’ve analyzed in great detail what works and what doesn’t. So, take my advice and let me give you some guidance as to what makes up a professional, quality handshake.
Maybe you have sweaty palms. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a sweaty-palm handshake? The bigger issue here is that no one knows if it’s simply a case of sweaty palms. For all we know, you just came from the restroom. I don’t even want to think about that!
For every one person who doesn’t appreciate my criticism of his or her handshake, at least 99 appreciate the fact that I teach them a handshake that is considered universally accepted. This is just about the time that some “culturally enriched” person will tell me that in some countries it’s considered rude to shake hands. Thanks for the lesson in global culture. I’ve traveled to more than 50 countries and found very few people worldwide who did not welcome me with an overly enthusiastic handshake. I’m not saying I’m right. I’m just saying that handshakes are more common than people realize. And yes, I know, it’s practically sacrilegious to touch someone’s hand in some countries. Let’s just agree for the purposes of this handshake discussion that I’m not referring to those countries.
There’s a time and place to be memorable. The handshake is not one of them. Don’t be known for a different handshake. Nobody appreciates it when you turn their wrist to put your hand on top. Nobody wants you to crunch their knuckles and remind them of the pain their older brother George caused them all those years. Nobody likes the grandma handshake…not even your grandma! Use the same handshake for everyone you meet. That way, you’ll either offend everyone or no one. Hopefully no one. Here are the steps of a universally (or at least domestically) accepted handshake:
Use a firm, but not too tight, grip.
Make eye contact.
Smile (if you can without looking creepy).
Double pump your arm.
Let go. Please, please, please know when to let go.
You’re probably thinking this is ridiculously simple. Bingo. A good handshake is ridiculously simple, but when you become aware of the handshake you’ll start to recognize all those little things that don’t work in a handshake. Sometimes people don’t extend their arm enough, or they wiggle their elbow like they’re doing the chicken dance at a wedding. You think that looks professional? Sometimes people who are seated try to shake a person’s hand who is standing. If the other person is standing, you need to stand up as well before you begin the handshake.
Most people either grip too loosely or too tightly. A woman I know has the firmest grip of any handshake I’ve ever experienced. You know what she’s saying. I’m tough and I could kill you. At least that’s what I read into it. Do you think I want to be her friend? Not a chance. She could kill me.
Most people either single pump or triple pump. Sometimes people stop pumping, but still hold onto your hand as if you’re dating or something. Nothing’s worse than wearing out your welcome in the handshake. If you think you’ve held on too long, the answer is yes, you have.
You might think that something so seemingly simple as a handshake is not a big deal, but it is. If it’s uncomfortable, if it’s awkward, you can be sure it does nothing to add to a positive first impression.
Next time you extend your hand to someone, think twice about what your handshake says about you.