How to Master the Business Handshake

What is a proper handshake? In a business situation, you’re expected to offer a firm handshake to your business associate or client. A firm handshake with good eye contact communicates self-confidence. Handshaking is a form of nonverbal communication that says a lot about a person. For example, an overpowering handshake can indicate dominance or control. A weak handshake can indicate insecurity, disinterest, shyness, and aloofness. An awkward handshake indicates nervousness or a lack of social skills, which in turn reflects on credibility.

An appropriate handshake begins with the introduction:

  1. Extend your right hand and grip the other person’s hand.

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    Make sure that both hands are pushed all the way in to meet web-to-web and your thumbs are facing straight up.

  2. Shake just a couple of times in a vertical motion.

    The range of motion is 2 or 3 inches. The motion is extended from the shoulder, through the elbow, and straight through to your hand.

  3. End the handshake cleanly, before the introduction is over.

    If you want to count, a good handshake is held for 3 or 4 seconds.

When someone makes an introduction, always remember to stand so that you can shake hands at an even level. This rule applies to both men and women. If you happen to be seated at a table where reaching the other person is difficult or awkward, however, you don't have to stand.

If you tend to have cold hands, stick your right hand in your pocket to warm it up as you approach a hand-shaking situation. And if you have perennially clammy hands, try the high school prom-date approach: Quickly swipe your right hand on your skirt or trousers so that when you present your hand, it's dry. You can do so quickly and gracefully, and no one will know.

If you're prone to really sweaty palms, and you have the time to plan ahead, try rubbing a sanitizer with alcohol or antiperspirant (non-sticky and unscented!) on your hands before leaving the house and meeting someone.

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