How to Shake Hands in a Business Setting

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Part of the Business Etiquette For Dummies Cheat Sheet

In business etiquette, handshakes are the physical greetings that go along with your words. Remember that business handshakes are an important part of the first impression you make.

You're expected to shake hands in the following business situations:

  • When meeting someone for the first time

  • When renewing an acquaintance

  • When a client, a customer, or someone you don't know well enters your office, cubicle, or home

  • When greeting a host and being introduced to people at an event

  • When meeting someone you already know outside work or in your home

  • When ending a transaction or leaving a business or social event

In American business etiquette (and even in non-business settings), a handshake requires the following:

  1. Hold out your right hand.

    Don't hold out your hand too soon; you'll seem nervous. And don't wait too long; you'll seem unfriendly. Shake hands when you've just met the other person. Lean forward ever so slightly, and hold out your right hand.

  2. Grasp the other person's hand.

    Fit your hand into his — not too loosely and not too tightly. Push your hand all the way into the other person's hand, to a point where both hands meet web to web (the area between the thumbs and index fingers). Never grasp just the other person's fingers. Keep your fingers firm — never loose and limp like a dead fish.

    Don't place your other hand over the person's hand or on his upper arm. Save this "two-handed shake" for people you know on a more personal basis.

  3. Squeeze firmly — not too hard — and shake once or twice for 2 to 3 seconds.

    The range of motion should be 2 or 3 inches. A proper handshake is done from the elbow, not the shoulder; you want to be relaxed, not stiff.

  4. Let go.

If the other person's hand is sweaty, don't grimace or dry your hand in that person's presence. He or she will already be embarrassed enough to have offered a sweaty hand, and it would be rude of you to cause further discomfort.

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