January 15th, 2010

What Your Handshake Says About You

by Jacqueline Whitmore
The Fail-Safe Handshake

The Fail-Safe Handshake

Nobody likes a limp handshake, but you probably don’t realize just how much you communicate through your hands.  Here’s one handshake to use, one to be careful of, and three to avoid.

The Fail-Safe: Connect the web between your index finger and thumb firmly with the other person’s and pump two or three times. This is confident and always appropriate.

The Rubber Glove: While shaking hands, cover the other person’s hand with your left hand. A favorite of politicians and clergy, this should be used only with someone you know well.

The Queen’s Handshake: Offering just your fingertips, rather than your palm, indicates a sense of superiority.

The Dead Fish: A limp handshake conveys weakness and a lack of self-confidence.

The Terminator: Turning the grip so your hand is on top is a sign of aggression.


Be Friendly: You should always be ready to initiate a handshake, demonstrating your eagerness to meet the person. Although etiquette rules once dictated that a man should wait for a woman to offer her hand, that’s no longer the case.

Show Respect:
Make sure you’re standing when you shake hello or goodbye. It shows respect for yourself and the other person.

Be Direct: Look the other person in the eye. Don’t allow the handshake to linger too long, but you can show an extra bit of sincerity by holding their hand a second longer after the last pump.

Note: I was interviewed by BusinessWeek Small Biz magazine on handshaking etiquette in April/May 2008.  To read the article, click here.

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4 Responses to “What Your Handshake Says About You”

  1. SimplyForties on January 15th, 2010 6:58 pm

    In my limited experience, there may be some geographic or possibly ethnic (or socio-economic?) aspect to women shaking hands. It was uncommon for me when I grew up in Maryland. When I moved to Texas it was the norm. Thirty-one years later I’m in Virginia and again, find it iffy. I always offer my hand but, when offering it to another woman, I tend to get some looks around here.

  2. Bruce on January 20th, 2010 6:39 pm

    The Cardiolgist-squeezing/relaxing your grip like a heartbeat.

    The Lumberjack- pushing/pulling grip in a sawlike motion

    The Mixup – holding thumb tightly against fingers, denying shakee an opportunity to comfortably grip your hand.
    While I don’t recommend these necessarily in a business environment, they are excellent icebreakers when meeting kids.

  3. Maxine Barnett on February 17th, 2010 12:42 pm

    I put the Dead fish and the Queens handshake in the same category.
    What is the other person going to do with it……I find them both insulting ….I don’t call them handshakes.

    Do remember that depending on culture, handshakes are a no- no.

  4. celaunwinia on February 16th, 2011 3:20 pm

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