The importance of a good handshake

The Power of a Good Handshake

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Unforgettable Personal Experience

A man in his early 50s walked into the meeting room. He extended his arm after making an eye contact with me. Without putting excessive force, he grasped my hand firmly and shook it with a gentle smile on his face.

“Wow…This guy must be very powerful!”

That’s the first impression that I’ve of him. At that moment only I realized that a good handshake can give such an astounding impact. It may sound a bit exaggerating. But I never imagine that a handshake can invoke someone’s emotions on a profound level. I met the wise man when I was still doing audit as my full-time job. He’s the CEO of a private company.

In contrast to another encounter with a senior management client, he only grasped my fingers for a brief second when I reached out to him for a handshake. That was really awful. I felt embarrassed and unwelcomed regardless whether it was intentional or not.

Since then, not only I’ve been trying to perfect my handshake. But I also started observing how do others typically give a handshake during various occasions when I encounter with different people. Be it a business meeting or a social networking event.

The Importance of a Good Handshake

Do you still remember your last handshake with someone? Probably not, if most were just normal handshakes. But how about those bad ones? I bet you can remember those pretty well. A wet and sweaty handshake? Or a weak one like dead fish?

Handshake is a form of non-verbal communication that speaks louder than words. For decades, handshaking represents a customary practice that plays a vital role in our social culture. It solidifies relationships, forms connections and builds trust between people. At times, it also signifies historic moments.

According to The Charisma Myth, a book about personal magnetism, one Fortune 500 CEO once said if he had to decide between two candidates with similar qualifications, he’d give the position to the candidate with the better handshake. It does sound extreme. Nonetheless, it’s indisputable that people do judge or make an opinion of you merely based on a simple gesture.

Why is a Handshake so Important?

More often than not, you always start a conversation with a handshake with someone who probably isn’t close to you. It could be during a business meeting, a job interview or meeting your parents-in-law for the very first time.

A handshake forms the first impression. And you will never get a second chance. In the span of a few seconds, it speaks volumes about you. It reflects your personal characteristics and sets the tone for the rest of the encounter.

A good handshake may even help you seal a deal without you knowing it. Even if it fails to give a good impression, you wouldn’t want to screw up just because of a bad handshake.

Bad Handshakes to Avoid

The Bone-Crusher

No doubt a good handshake should be a firm one to reflect your confidence. But it may portray you as an aggressive person if you overdo it. It also shows arrogance and being commandeering. In response, people may quickly put themselves in a defensive mode. It’s worse if you exert too much pressure to the extent that it hurts. 

The Limp Noodle

You should also avoid giving an overly weak handshake. Imagine someone extends his/her hand to you without putting any effort. And the person barely shakes your hand when you grasp his/her palm. It gives an impression that the person either lacks confidence or simply shows disinterest in the meetup.

The Clammy Handshake

The worst that I’ve ever experienced was a handshake with someone offering a clammy right-hand. “Eeuw! It’s disgusting!” Sometimes we may get sweaty palms during nail-biting events. It’s not entirely our fault as the Eccrine sweat glands in our hands start functioning when we’re stressed or nervous. But you definitely wouldn’t want to ruin someone’s mood with a clammy hand even before a conversation starts. Always carry a packet of pocket tissue which might come in handy during such occasion.

How to Get It Right

Before meeting someone for the first time, always keep your right hand free. A typical situation to avoid is when you’re holding a stack of documents with your left hand, you occupy your right hand with a cup of hot coffee.

At the very last minute, some people always tend to have the urge to answer the call of nature before meeting an important person. Probably it’s due to nervousness or just to make sure every strand of his/her hair is in perfect shape. Whatever it is, always keep your right hand dry and clean. Avoid rubbing your hand hastily on your pants before shaking someone’s hand. 

Extend your hand and look into the person’s eyes. Eye contact makes a difference. It shows your respect and appreciation. Use your right hand to make a full contact with the person’s palm. Hold the person’s hand firmly with a gentle squeeze but not too hard. A firm handshake reflects your confidence which helps you gain trust from the person. Smile gently while shaking your hand with one or two pumps. A good handshake generally lasts only 2 – 3 seconds. It makes people feel creepy if you’re perceived to be overenthusiastic. 

Final Thoughts

Undeniably there are cultural differences in greetings. From handshaking, to high-fives, to bowing, to a more macho style of fist-bumping and many more…However, handshaking is undoubtedly the universal form of greeting that is often underrated. It doesn’t require any specialized knowledge. And yet, many people only see it as a trivial formality. If you are already convinced that a good handshake makes a difference, start practicing and get feedback from your friends and family. Make your handshaking from awkward to awesome!

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