Your Handshake Can Give You A Hand Up

For too many, business etiquette is a lost art. Before you can land your dream job, attract a lucrative client, or reach an ambitious landmark, you’ll have to master the handshake. More than a formal greeting, handshakes tell a story about who you are and are a priceless marketing tool. Whether you’re shaking hands with a potential employer or prospective client, your handshake is often your first opportunity to market yourself. Whether you like it or not, it speaks volumes about your personality and level of confidence. So what message do you want to send about yourself to make the right first impression in business and networking?

Handshake History

A North American cultural staple and key to strong business etiquette, where exactly did the handshake originate? In medieval times, men in armour would extend their hand to one another as a gesture of peace, demonstrating friendship. The handshake helped men differentiate friends from enemies. Of course, there was always the option of drawing a dagger or sword rather than returning the handshake (we don’t recommend this option in a business setting).

The Business Handshake “How To

*”Hi, I’m John.Introduce yourself before you extend your hand. Handshakes shouldn’t stand alone. Using your handshake as a replacement for your voice can give the impression that you’re overly aggressive or nervous.

*Proper form. Simply extend your arm with your hand outstretched and  your thumb straight up. Your hands should be “web-to-web.” Slide your hand into the other person’s until your webs touch. And avoila! That’s perfect form. 

*Shake from the elbow. Using your upper arm and shaking from the shoulder comes across as overbearing. If you shake from the elbow, you’ll avoid jolting or jerking around your partner.

*Avoid the bonecrusher. Use a firm, but not forceful grip. A firm handshake communicates confidence and professionalism. A handshake isn’t a show of physical strength, so don’t crush your partner’s hand.

*Ban the floppy fish. A lifeless, limp handshake sends a message that you’re timid, intimated or lack confidence. This passive handshake is off-putting so avoid it at all costs.

*Pump your hand 1-2 times. Business handshakes aren’t tests of endurance. A handshake should be brief, lasting 3-4 seconds. An overly long handshake will likely make your partner uncomfortable.

*Surviving the sweaty palm. If you shake hands with a partner whose palms are sweaty, avoid the urge to wipe your hands on a your clothing or handkerchief. Embarrassing your partner could sever a deal on the spot. Wash your hands after the meeting or discretely wipe them when you’re out of sight.

Cultural Considerations

Like all aspects of business etiquette, handshakes are culture sensitive. While we’ve narrowed in on North American handshaking etiquette, if you have clients visiting from abroad or are travelling to another country on business, make sure to familiarize yourself with the appropriate greeting and business norms in their culture. North American business etiquette often doesn’t translate in other parts of the world.

In China, a weak handshake is preferred and businessmen will often hold each other’s hands for an extended period after the initial handshake. In Morocco, handshakes are accompanied by a kiss on each cheek to corresponding genders. Russians rarely shake hands with members of the opposite sex; a man shaking a woman’s hands would be considered impolite. In Arabic-speaking Middle Eastern countries where handshakes are less firm, a firm North American handshake grip would be considered rude or aggressive. Luckily, if you’re primarily doing business in North America, handshake etiquette varies little.

Now that you’re a business etiquette pro, shake it up at your next meeting or interview. With the tips we’ve covered in mind and a little practice, your handshake will help you market yourself the right way. So-long floppy fish!