How to give the best handshake

What’s worse, a palm-shattering, bone crunching handshake? Or being offered a hand which feels more like a limp fish?

Originally handshakes were used to prove that we came in peace and did not have a weapon. Nowadays, we use handshakes all the time – but particularly when meeting and greeting someone.

Handshakes are a sign of trust and help build strong relationships. As a busy professional, it’s important that you make a memorable positive impression when you’re out networking or meeting potential new clients.

Your handshake is just one of the ways you can build a positive first impression. It’s interesting to note that a study by the Incomm Center for Trade Show Research has found that if you shake hands with people, they are twice as likely to remember you than if you didn’t shake hands.

In a study on “Handshaking, gender, personality, and first impressions.” by Chaplin et al, (2000) they discovered that a firm handshake is an effective form of self promotion for a female. Research has found that women are more likely to give a ‘limp’ handshake, or only ‘grasp with the fingers’ rather than a man.

Psychologists have also found that if you take the initiative and move forward to meet and greet a person, their impression of you will be more favourable than if you waited for them to make the initiative.

However, handshakes mean different things in different cultures. In today’s global marketplace, you could find yourself doing business with people from Africa, Japan or America.

Whereas in the US, a firm handshake equals self-confidence, in Africa a limp handshake is the way to do it. In many African countries, expect to be shaking hands for as much as a couple of minutes. In the US, expect to get some very strange looks if your handshake goes on for more than a few seconds.

I’m guessing that many entrepreneurs don’t know the full impact of their handshake – and in fact don’t even give their handshake a moment’s thought. My suggestion is you become aware of the first impression that your handshake portrays. That’s right, I’m suggesting that you practice your handshake on friends and family and ask how it comes across. Sounds embarrassing? Better that you know about a problem before it impacts on your career or potential to win new business.

What’s stopping you from finding out?

Heather Townsend, Britain’s queen of networking, is the founder of The Efficiency Coach, a company that helps professionals achieve better business results for less effort. She also has a lovely handshake. Follow her Joined Up Networking blog for more useful tips and tricks.

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