The Art of the Handshake

Greeting handshake

The handshake has been around for centuries and sends a variety of messages:

"It's a pleasure to meet you."


"You can trust me."

"We're in business."

With so many things to say, it's important to know how to shake hands properly.  For if performed incorrectly, it is rarely forgotten.

Now, don't panic!  

Learning the art of the handshake is so easy you'll no doubt realize you've been aiming to do it correctly all along.

Three Steps to an Effective Handshake

The Reach

As you approach someone, enter an agreement with someone, or leave someone, extend your right hand in a vertical position with your thumb raised.  As the other person does the same, your hands will first touch at the webs between thumbs and index fingers.

You'll hardly notice it happening, but the "webtouch" is where the true handshake begins! And if this meeting doesn't occur, the great handshake won't happen.

Reaching for a handshake

The Clasp

When your hands meet at the "web sites," you enter into the clasp.  Connect your hands so that you can clasp your fingers around the palm of your partner's hand.  The clasp is really the heart of the handshake.  At that exact moment, eye contact is critical!

Clasping hands for a handshake

The Shake

With hands connected, but not so strongly that you feel his pulse, enter the shake.  You'll both move your hands up and down a couple of times, then release. (Probably 2 or 3 seconds.) Often you will be speaking to the person at the same time. 

The handshake

The first two steps are worth your attention - it can be awkward if your hands don't meet correctly or you close before completing the clasp. 

A bad handshake can make an impression.  Have you ever shook hands with someone who had the "dead fish" syndrome or with someone who must have thought that "firm" meant a bone-crushing grip?  If you had to choose where to land, aim for the middle.  

It Takes Practice

A lighthearted review of what not to do when shaking hands.

Get comfortable with your handshake by practicing with everyone you can.  Seek feedback from close friends and family members.  The important thing is to reach out to others and as you do so establish eye contact.  Go first!  

And one very important rule for everyone:  When you shake a hand, stand up!  

If you are nervous about shaking hands, do your best not to attempt enhancing the act by placing your left hand over the other hands, or patting your partner's upper arm or shoulder.  Depending on the occasion, this can make you seem insincere or over-eager.

The basic rule is: The handshake is enough.  If you forget and touch another part of the other person's body during the handshake, give yourself a break for the goof!  Just keep practicing, taking that first move of reaching out to meet and greet someone else. 

If you have possible symptoms of sickness, you still have the responsibility to greet others.  You might excuse yourself by saying, “I’m offering a virtual handshake, as I’ve been exposed to someone’s cold.”

Shaking hands is the most common greeting and gesture of good will.  It is an art because it takes two people, in unison and agreement, to complete the act.  Learn the correct method for performing it and put it to good use for yourself.  

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