The Handshake Is Often How Other Size You Up. Here’s How to Measure Up.

I’ve shaken hands with too many young men – their limp hands dying in mine as each searches for God-knows-what on the ground with their eyes.

Ugh! Often, these kids don’t have an involved Dad – go figure. So, get your handshake in order and help someone else if you have the chance.

The truth is…few people understand the power of a good handshake. Many partnerships have been launched using the handshake, and the dynamic of a relationship can be permanently ruined by a weak handshake or established by a solid one.

So, I’ve provided a quick primer on how to get this done. If you’re teaching a child, keep it simple but cover these important points

  1. Timing: Make sure you shake hands with the host when entering and leaving any event, when you meet someone new, and when you’re thanking anyone who has completed a favor or service for you.

a. Handshakes are always appropriate – especially if you’re not sure about doling out a hug.
b. Remember to offer a handshake only when you have the attention of the other person – make eye contact first and offer your hand with a verbal greeting (this avoids the “left hanging” issue).
c. Eye contact is essential – gain and hold eye contact while you shake hands and greet someone else.

  1. How: Go deep with your hand, making solid contact with the other hand.

a. Prior to a handshake, ensure your hands are clean.

i. If someone offers you their hand, and your hands are not clean, give them a verbal warning (often people won’t care).
ii. Also be cognizant of sweaty hands (nonchalant wiping the hands dry on your person is a good idea).

b. Ensure the web of your hand (the part between the index finger and thumb) makes contact with your target.
c. Provide a firm handshake – not a death grip (no limp, dead fish allowed).

  1. Adjusting: Don’t be dominated – this will set a precedent. We’ve all been there – the guy with the huge, jacked-up truck and shirt three sizes too small tries to crush your hand. This method below is how politicians are taught to shake hands (as you might imagine, there are plenty of people who would like to crush various politicians’ hands).

a. If you feel the pressure from the handshake building, increase your pressure to meet the force.
b. If the pressure continues to rise, and you cannot squeeze any harder, point your index finer straight out along the forearm of the person with which you are shaking hands.

i. Create an isometric contraction in your hand, making the hand as wide across the palm as you can.
ii. Squeeze back in your direction subtly with the middle and index finger.
iii. Maintain pressure until the other person releases your hand.

That’s the deal. Know when and how to shake a hand. You’ll be better for it, and not surprisingly people will respect you more and take you more seriously.

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