On average, you’ll shake hands 15,000 times during your life. That’s a lot of opportunity for a great first impression or a spoiled introduction. How you shake hands, however elementary we think of it, is a big part of impression formation.
This post might seem rudimentary for some, but it is important to revisit the basics once and a while to keep your social skills sharp.
I was recently on the receiving end of a limp-wristed grasp and it made me question how such a simple skill isn’t mastered universally by men, but the truth is more than two thirds of people say they lack confidence in performing the act.
So here are some tips in mastering the art of the handshake…
1. Make It Comfortable
If your hands are cold and clammy, the handshake will feel unpleasant for both participants. Make sure your hands are clean and inviting. If you know you will be meeting someone shortly, make sure your hands are dry and warm them up on your pants or in your pockets for a few moments before the introduction.
2. Position Your Hand Appropriately
When going in for a handshake, position your fingers underneath the receiver’s palm with your palm being face up. The web between your thumb and index finger should be intersecting with the web of the other person’s hand. One you both lock in, your finger should then curl around the bottom of the receiver’s hand and your thumb should be on top. This is a signal of power, showing that you are equal in the interaction.
3. Give the Proper Pressure
Ever been met with the death grip of an overcompensating handshaker? It’s off-putting. Keep it to a medium amount. Your pressure should assert that you’re a confident man and nothing more. Let the other person know you’re there without making them cringe. A handshake is not an excuse to show off your strength. If you need a guide, you can match your pressure to the other person's or just add a little more if their hand feels a little wimpy.
4. Shake, Shake, Shake
About three shakes up and down is the preferred amount. Control the motion naturally. Just follow their lead and don’t overtake the interaction. You shouldn’t be throwing them off. Smooth and steady wins the race. Hold for no longer than two seconds after you’re finished with the motion.
5. Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Some men will think too hard about the actual act of shaking hands and forget that the rest of their body language is being communicated too. Hold eye contact throughout the clasp. When you go in for a handshake, make sure your right had is open and free of objects. If you are sitting, stand. Make sure your shoulders are back and your mouth is smiling. You want to appear warm and friendly, like you are looking forward to the interaction, even if you’re not.
6. Shake When Appropriate
These days, a handshake is always the safe bet over a more intimate hug or a formal high-five. Nearly everyone is open to a handshake, even if they’re not really comfortable with the act of performing it. When shaking hands during an introduction, it’s proper etiquette to shake hands again when you are leaving the interaction. Keep in mind that generally, the older person or higher-ranking person should extend their hand first. This is becoming less common but is still something you should be aware of.
P.S. I’ve seen some great gentlemen perform a hall-of-fame handshake with another man and then proceed to give a limp-wristed shake to a woman directly after. Give a woman the same handshake you’d give a man, with just a bit less pressure. You’re not going to break her.