How To Give an Impressive Handshake

by Brett and Kate McKay on January 28, 2008 · 51 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills

contactus_shakehands.jpg

I’m in law school right now and as a future attorney, I’ll be shaking lots of hands: clients, potential clients, other attorneys, and judges. During that brief contact with that person, they’re going to form opinions of me. My handshake could give them the impression that I’m warm person or cold and aloof.


Maybe my handshake indicates that I’m an overbearing jerk or a wimpy McWimpsalot. We want a handshake that creates a favorable impression. We’re going to talk about how to do that.

There are three keys to a successful handshake

  1. How you do it
  2. When you do it
  3. Where you do it

How you do it

  • Make sure your handshake is firm, not a dead fish grip. However, you don’t want to crush the other person’s hand.
  • Make sure you don’t have food or grease on your hands. You want the person to remember you, not what you ate.
  • If your hands are sweaty, give them a quick nonchalant wipe on your pants.
  • When you offer your hand, look the person in the eye and smile.

When you do it

Handshakes involve timing. Many people avoid offering handshakes because they’re afraid of being left hanging. If you’re not sure if someone will notice your offer, extend the handshake anyways. Most of the time people will notice your handshake offer and quickly grasp your hand.

Be aware of different social customs. Most cultures have different customs for shaking hands. Some find it inappropriate for a man to shake a woman’s hand and some cultures find shaking hands completely unacceptable. Be sensitive to these situations.

What if you’re left hanging?

I hate when this happens. I always feel dumb, especially when everyone but the person with whom you were trying to shake hands saw the rejection. Don’t feel embarrassed. The problem isn’t that the other person doesn’t think you’re important, you’re timing was just off.

  • Don’t offer a handshake if the other person is engrossed in conversation with someone else.
  • Don’t approach someone from the side with your extended hand. It’s hard to see.
  • Do audibly greet the person first to get their attention and then offer your hand.

Where to do it

Handshakes are good every where. Make sure to shake plenty of hands when you go to a social gathering. Make sure to shake the hosts’ hand when arriving and leaving the gathering.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christian January 28, 2008 at 5:30 am

Well, I’d just come up with a very similar headline and was about to write an article about how to get a manly handshake!

Kudos, Brett. Nice article.

Christian

2 Justin January 28, 2008 at 6:10 am

I’ve always found it difficult to figure out the man/woman handshake thing. Sometimes, women give firm handshakes back and, at other times, you get the limp-wristed shake.

What gives?

3 Kate January 28, 2008 at 10:09 am

Justin-
I think woman are confused about hand shaking. Handshakes are definitely more of a manly guy thing so woman don’t know what to do. Is it too masculine to shake really firmly? But then the only alternative is the dead fish. This confusion also extends to female to female handshakes I would also note. What are woman to do when they meet another woman who does not warrant a hug? A woman to woman handshake outside of the workplace feels very awkward. Which is why we often do the side hug. But sometimes even the side hug is too intimate. So it’s a real pickle.

4 Kyle January 28, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Great, tips. Firm and look them in the eye is what I look for when shaking hands with someone for the first time. Also some cultures don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Do your research and avoid the e. coli shake.

5 Brett McKay January 28, 2008 at 2:23 pm

@ Christian- Thanks for the kind words. It would be nice to see your take on handshaking over at your blog.

@ Justin- I agree. It can be confusing handshaking with women. I’m an equal opportunity handshaker and will shake hands the same way with women as I do men.

@ Kate- I haven’t thought about women greeting each other. I could see how that would be confusing. Hmmm…. I don’t have any answers for you on this one.

@ Kyle- Good call on avoiding the e. coli handshake. It’s also good to be aware if people from other cultures shake hands. You don’t want to ruin a business deal with some foreign company because you shook some guys hand.

6 Kyle January 28, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Brett, excellent point on understanding other cultures. Many companies have messed this one up in terms of putting products into countries without doing their research. The tale of the Chevy Nova into Mexico comes to mind. Turns out Nova translates in Spanish to “no go”. By the way, I was joking on the e.coli shake. :-)

7 Elizabeth January 28, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Brett –

Good for you being a equal-opportunity hand-shaker. I believe that dead-fish handshakes are as equally repellant and “telling” from a woman as they are a man. I believe that your “how to do it” guidelines apply as equally to women as they do men.

I will tell you that a man who will look me in the eyes, offer his hand, and engage in a friendly, firm but not crushing handshake with me wins major points in my book. I’m completely in support of chivalry and all, but not at the cost of the women-as-equals progress we’ve made. A good handshake from a man means he sees me as an equal human being; it’s a true sign of respect.

As the mother of a teenaged son whom I’m grooming to become a “manly” man, I’m confused about the “man hug” thing. Can you shed any light on this subject? I’m 43. I can easily remember the days when men simply did not hug other men. I like this advancement (man hugs) but as I said, I don’t understand the rules. Your “manly” take on it would be appreciated.

8 mark January 31, 2008 at 6:34 pm

I have always used this rule with women I meet in the workplace. If a woman offers her hand, then I grasp it firmly, but not fully.

By that I mean my index finger crosses at her knuckle line, my thumb under her fingers. (I have very large hands, like a dairy farmer). This conveys that I view her as an equal, not with the intent to dominate. It is very simple that women have smaller hands.

With men, I do fully ‘engage’ thumb to thumb’ and again, this is more of a peer to peer issue.

I am also in the midwest, so our handshaking is more conservative, what we call the ‘double pumper’, or about two shakes.

As to the hugging thing, my son-in-law is Belgian, and he has introduced our family to hugging. If it is someone well known, man hugging is good. There is definitely an age cutoff for where this does not feel ‘natural’. Unless both are continental.

9 Brett McKay January 31, 2008 at 7:54 pm

@ mark- great tips on shaking hands with women. I lived in Mexico for a while I noticed that hugging was more prevalent among men than in the states. It was strange at first, but you got used to it.

10 Living Off Dividends February 7, 2008 at 10:05 am

when I was in college, I’d have dated any girl with a strong handshake. something sexy about a chick with a confidence handshake!!!

11 Brett McKay February 8, 2008 at 6:49 pm

@Living Off Dividends:

I couldn’t agree with you more.

12 easy mo drew February 10, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I’m a big proponent of a “web to web” shake, meaning touch the web of skin in between your thumb and index to the other person’s web. If you make a conscious effort to do it you’ll never give somebody the finger shake (unless of course they’re a little too trigger happy).

Excellent website by the way!

13 Ainsworth February 10, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Great post. I’ve noticed that a handshake can be a great indicator of how the conversation will go.

14 Luke February 10, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I never offer my hand to a lady, but will shake hers if offered. I do not shake with the same strength as I do a man’s hand, but the grip is still full. That is not to say that a dead fish is appropriate. In fact, I’m guessing that a lady is expecting a man to be strong and a weak handshake would be an instant turn off.
As far as timing being off, I’ve found that if I don’t look directly at the shake, our hands will meet with no problem.

15 Brett McKay February 10, 2008 at 8:56 pm

@easy mo drew:

The dreaded finger shake! I loathe when someone tries to get away with the finger shake. Definitely leaves a bad impression when someone tries to do that.

Thanks for the kind words as well.

16 Brett McKay February 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm

@Luke:

I agree that women probably find a weak handshake from a man a turn off. The dead fish should be avoided at all costs. Thanks for your tips!

17 Jon Spooner February 12, 2008 at 4:44 pm

1. Great site!

2. Slight typo in bullet 4 of How to
“When you off your hand, look the person in the eye and smile.”
I think you meant “offer your hand”

3. What is the best way to rectify the dreaded finger shake?
Is it worthwhile to stop the social flow of things and re-initiate another “web to web” shake?
Is it worthwhile to mention to the person “oh sorry about that..”?
Or should you just play it off like it was the other persons fault?

18 Old School European Guy February 13, 2008 at 12:56 pm

One more thing: the handshake is always offered by the person standing higher on the “courtesy ladder”, ie the older, the higher-ranking, the female. Offering handshakes the other way round is considered impolite.

19 Brett McKay February 13, 2008 at 2:17 pm

@Old School European Guy:

Excellent point Old School European Guy. I think the courtesy ladder has been completely forgotten about, especially in America. For example, most people forget the courtesy ladder when making introductions.

20 Sam March 2, 2008 at 9:46 pm

So I’ve been trying this out and it seems to be working pretty well.
–The double handshake–
Handshake starts with one hand extended, half a second later have your free hand sandwich your “victim’s” hand between both your hands.

It conveys power as well as excitement about interacting with a subject.

21 Jack March 6, 2008 at 12:49 pm

On the man-hug issue, I follow a pretty simple philosophy. I only hug men with whom I’ve bonded on some level beyond simple courteous friendship. There are few of those: my father-in-law, my best friend, a good friend from my church, and one of my martial arts buddies. So it’s by no means common; I reserve it for people who know me better than anyone else.

When ‘testing the waters,’ I’ve noticed that a handshake-to-hug approach is quite good. You start with a firm handshake, and if it seems appropriate, move in to hug with the free arm, keeping a good grasp on the hand the whole way. I think it conveys respect, but shows that you’re beginning bond with him on a more personal level, which is an essential but lost art.

22 Pencil Drawings May 6, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Interesting article. I was left hanging just the other day and I was embarassed about it, but now I understand why I was left hanging.

23 Paul June 25, 2008 at 12:41 pm

One thing I didn’t see mentioned. A gentleman ALWAYS stands when shaking hands. But I suppose that has gone the way off taking ones hat off indoors or walking to the outside of a lady when walking down the street.
Paul

24 Krysty June 28, 2008 at 10:53 am

As a business woman, I’ll give the men my opinion on shaking hands with a woman…

First, I’ll let you know I give a strong handshake. My hands are certainly smaller than most men’s, but a firm and full grip is what everyone gets. As a business woman, you’ll get my respect in the business world a lot faster if you do the same. I don’t know about other women, but I can tell if you are not using your full strength for a handshake. And I know it may not be true, but it gives me the impression that you wouldn’t think I could handle it…not a good way to start a business relationship with me. It’s just annoying.

Whatever you do, do not give the limp hand shake. It gives women at the very least the above impression, and with me it’ll give the impression of a lack of strength altogether. It gives you the appearance of being less than a man.

And never, ever kiss my hand. I’ve actually had this happen with a few flirty business associates. Usually it startles me to the point where I actually jerk my hand back, as it’s so inappropriate. It gives me the impression that you’re looking at the wrong assets for a business meeting, and that you don’t know how to work with business-oriented women, and therefore probably won’t get my business, or whatever else you were looking for.

Simply put: strong, firm, full handshake. Nothing else will do.

If there are other business women out there, I’d love to hear your viewpoints on this as well to see if this is just my pet peeve or a fairly universal expectation.

25 Connor August 5, 2008 at 9:21 am

In regards to one of your many suggestions:

“Be aware of different social customs. Most cultures have different customs for shaking hands. Some find it inappropriate for a man to shake a woman’s hand and some cultures find shaking hands completely unacceptable. Be sensitive to these situations.”

I am sorry, but if you refuse to shake a woman’s hand, I refuse to shake your hand.

26 lewis September 12, 2008 at 2:10 pm

I’ll always remember my nan’s boyfriend’s handshake. Firm, looked you in the eyes and smiled and that’s how he greeted/farewelled (I’m tired ok?) everyone including me from…must have been before I was 5yrs old.

Even though he died quite a few years ago it’s always the first thing anyone remembers when they think about him and it goes to show how powerful an act it is.

It’s surprising how many people have forgotten what a proper handshake is. A handshake is more than a courtesy, it’s a statement. Sadly I’m one of those people who do it automatically but, thanks to AoM for reminding me, I’ll be giving the firm handshake I so fondly recall from now on!

27 Barry October 7, 2008 at 8:29 am

Regarding the man/woman shake, I have found in the business world that women, especially younger ones, generally follow the same rules as men and offer a similar firm handshake. If they differ at all, they usually offer a slightly shallower grip where you are getting the fingers only rather than the palm of the hand, but this doesn’t really require any adjustment from the man. The only adjustment I make is to not offer the handshake to a woman, but wait for her offer, which is the rule from traditional social etiquette, although probably unnecessary to follow in modern business.

I know one woman who offers what I would call a victorian handshake. She offers just the fingers and holds the hand sideways relative to the normal orientation (palm facing the floor). This is unusual, but definitely has an air of class about it. This is probably how the Queen of England would shake hands. This woman comes from an established southern family and was a debutante, etc. The handshake suits her, but I don’t think it could be pulled of by everyone. And probably best used in social settings rather than business. I consider this handshake the equivalent of offering a personal calling card instead of a business card. It almost looks like an offer to kiss her hand, but don’t go there. Give it a shallow grip for a moment without pumping.

I once encountered a salesman who used a crusher handshake. He gripped my hand so hard I thought he was trying to break a bone. I honestly believe he thinks a handshake is a contest of strength. I am still dumfounded by this experience. Please don’t ever shake hands this way. If unsure, match the grip strength of the other people you are shaking hands with.

Always offer your right hand. There will be times when someone has to offer their left hand to you because maybe they don’t have a right hand or it is in a cast, etc. In these cases, you still use your right hand and just do the best you can with the grip. It will probably be a shallower grip, mostly just the fingers and the leftie will probably offer with the palm down similar to the lady’s Victorian shake mentioned above. It will seem odd to you, but they are used to it, so let it pass without comment.

Some men offer a slightly or fully palm-down handshake, forcing you to engage with your palm tilted up. This is a sign of dominance. One way to handle this is to grip it and then rotate it to vertical to show that you are not submissive.

If you have sweaty palms, which may well happen prior to an important meeting, then wash and dry your hands prior to the meeting. Also remember to hold your hand open while waiting for the meeting. Holding a clenched fist for any length of time will trap the sweat and make your hand wet.

Don’t be so focused on the gripping aspect that you forget to look the person in the eye, smile and make a polite comment such as “Nice to meet you, Bob” It is perfectly fine to fumble the grip as long as you are getting these more important aspects right.

28 Dave December 12, 2008 at 1:04 am

When I shake hands with men, I always have a good level of firmness, and never try to crush someone’s hand, but have been taken by surprise enough times by aggressive handshakers that I am always ready to escalate to meet their grip. I alway close my hand the tiniest bit instead of holding it flat, again to avoid having my hand rolled and crushed by an aggressive handshaker. Give it a few good shakes, look ‘em in the eye and smile, and that’s that.

When I shake with women, my grip is never weak but I don’t squeeze tightly. It’s almost like holding a bird—firmly, but delicately. I also use two hands, and only pump once or twice. It’s more like taking her hand than shaking it. Again, direct look and smile.

I don’t personally meet women in a business setting, so I might do a more formal and less warm shake in that circumstance.

29 Joy December 14, 2008 at 11:46 am

@Brett McKay – I definitely agree that a weak handshake is a turn off whether you’re a man or woman. I’m grateful as a woman that my dad and my teachers taught me how to be a feminite woman with a firm handshake. My first thought when a man’s hand just slides off of my firm grasp, is impotentcy. Uhh..pretty harsh, but it’s my first impression. Or I think they don’t respect me enough to actually take the handshake seriously. I’m not porcelain. I can handle a firm grasp. You can touch me to, I don’t have kooties.
And women… You need to take this seriously as well. A Woman to Woman handshake should show the same respect and professionalism.
No LIMP wrist!
Even the graceful English style pinch should show the effort to touch the other.

30 Tony Woodward January 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

Re: The double handshake (which is what I was looking for when I found this site)

I just discovered this site today whilst surfing for something totally different (serendipity lives and thrives on the Web which is why I love it!) and this site is really interesting and I am having an unexpected bonanza! I shall explore it further.

On the topic of handshaking I am reminded of J. Edgar Hoover. He hated sweaty palms so much that potential contacts were offered handkerchiefs and towels to dry off their hands before even being allowed into the regal presence. If you had sweaty palms then you were dead in the water before you even spoke to him.

Yes, Virginia, some people really ARE that shallow! And unfortunately some of them wield power!

I use the double handshake with people I really like, as a way of showing it, when as a very reserved person I would probably not show my liking in any other way. I would never use it on first contact with anyone because that would be a lie.

The double handshake is the ultimate expression of warmth just short of a hug. I am a quietly backward Brit even after 40 years as a Canadian, so I don’t use hugs lightly! But I do use them sometimes – for family or very best friends in appropriate situations – 40 years as a North American have rubbed off on me but a true Brit would die rather than do that. Even now I feel self-conscious when I do.

And you will never see me kiss someone on both cheeks – I’d have to be Latin to do that and this is not in my arsenal. Cultures vary and I respect them all and I am fascinated by the variety (unless of course they are dedicated to killing me). But kissing people on both cheeks is not in my culture.

Reading this correspondence, I too hate wet fish handshakes but I have never been in a position where handshaking was regarded as a contest like arm reslting. Perhaps I have been lucky. In that situation I would just let him win and then quietly despise him and if possible refuse him my business.

My two cents’ worth.

31 Tony Woodward January 5, 2009 at 11:35 am

Sorry about “reslting” in my recent post – I meant “wrestling” of course, and I didn’t even catch this when I was doing a last proofreading. We are all fallible!

32 Terry Boyne March 12, 2009 at 6:48 am

Back in the day, a gentleman would kiss a lady’s hand.

I recall reading a quote from a prominent author – I’m sorry I can’t recall who – who said he knew our culture was waning when men no longer kissed a lady’s hand.

33 Gordo_Mongo April 7, 2009 at 4:18 am

“contest of strength” …LOL

Our culture is waning, but whether or not some bitch gets her hand pecked by some horny pig farmer is only the most superficial of indications.

I once met a drunk blathering fool who wanted to repeatedly shake my hand, when I was 19. If I didn’t want to continually shake his hand, that was “an invitation to fight, or talk philosophy of manliness” (with a drunk guy who had several of his teeth broken off at the gumline). This kind of soured me on shaking hands. …For good.

Why do I want to shake the smelly paw of some fool I don’t like and can’t identify with? The most basic responsibility of a citizen in western civilization is to not be a tool of tyrants, when one shows up for jury duty. It is to strike down bad laws, and not give the judge or prosecutor a “guilty” verdict, just because somebody broke one of their irrational laws. But my “fellow man” can’t hack this minimal responsibility anymore. So where’s the brotherhood worthy of a handshake?Instead, they have packed the prisons fuller than the British could ever have possibly managed, at the worst of their tyranny. And for what? For owning drugs and guns that were rightfully considered private property until 1907.

All the “manly handshake” morons have voted our freedom away, so they could exist as serfs of the nanny state. America has gone soft, and shaking hands like a man won’t make you a man: only thinking for yourself can do that.

Think about that: we’ve made ourselves less free than if we would have stayed British subjects. No property rights, no basic civility. …But we still want to clap paws, to show camaraderie! …Count me out. You’re not my brothers, you’d barely make interesting target practice.

Don’t offer me your hand unless you’re a real American who believes that all guns, all drugs, all cars, all medicines, all motorcycles, etc.. should be legal. WARNING: I know the difference between real and fake Americans, and I carry a pistol.

For all I know, your form of bacteria is contagious!

But if you’re willing to always think for yourself, and always follow your conscience, I might shake your hand. (I’ve shaken a few hands in my life.) It totally didn’t matter if the person had a bad handshake.

I am much more concerned about whether they belong to the same species I do, than whether another man touches my hand “the right way”.

…Let’s shake, rattle and roll on it!

Freedom

For those of you who wish to get an idea about what it’s like to be a man, I recommend the following link. Someday, if you keep that flagellum spinning, you just might make it!

http://www.fija.org

34 Robert April 8, 2009 at 11:13 am

This is an older post, I know, but I’m new here, and this post ‘spoke’ to me!

I am a Crusher. Meaning, when I shake a hand, I put a LOT of unconscious strength into it; sometimes I’m not aware of how much power I use, until I see the other person’s eyes bulge, or their fingertips burst into bloody blooms. Oops.

Typically, I do it to exclusively to men; I’m not a total neanderthal, as I ‘tune down’ the pressure when shaking a woman’s hand, or better yet, use the “double-hand shake”.

I was always taught by my father and grandfather that a man’s calling card is his firm handshake, and it should say a lot of things about him and his integrity, and if you’re going to do it, then by God, do it. Because they were (and are) both old-school, blue-collar men, they were used to the bone-breaking handshakes of their contemporaries…so, the methodology was passed on to me, and I ‘got it honestly’, so to speak.

However, I find that today, in my modern world (professional), there are not a lot of men who were not taught a similar mantra, thereby resulting in a plethora of “dead fish” shakes that make me want to go wash the wimpiness off of my hand immediately afterwords…and because of this, I silently vowed never to offer that type of handshake to anyone, and to give those very men one of my patented knuckle-crushers at very opportunity.

It may not be socially appropriate, or it may say something detrimental about my character in today’s world, but it’s a learned habit of heritage that I’m proud of, and I offer no apologies for it.

And habits, as we all know, die hard.
Rob

35 funton April 22, 2009 at 5:20 am

Never, under any circomstances, offer a hand shake when in toilet room.

36 funton April 22, 2009 at 5:23 am

you can test your hand shake on yourself. try to shake your own hand.
it takes some experience.
try it.

37 Beat Attitude May 13, 2009 at 5:59 am

Never go “over the top” with a palm-down handshake. This is usually a blatant attempt to dominate, causing the other person to put their hand in the submissive position.

When I get one of these, I usually
a) receive it, then, before I let go, make a point of turning their hand vertically.
b) do the same thing. They’ll feel silly for doing it that way and quickly correct it
c) offer my hand vertically, forcing them to adjust.

My father-in-law gives an exaggerated hand-grab (the swoop-to-grab) which is endearing with a strong pump and a courteous dipping of the head, but not suitable if there is no positive relationship existing already.

Also, if you want to do some kind of home-boy bump, go for the slighly curled fingers in the high-five position, thumb out. Then, they won’t expect a high-five (or a low-five, which they might if the thumb was tucked in), but might expect a chest/shoulder bump. This move engages the bicep in a friendly arm-wrestle kind of way.

Never fold your other hand over the other person’s hand unless you are trying to convey an emotional connection. Gripping the forearm with the other hand is seen as supportive but can also be patronising. Look at how presidents shake hands to see what they are conveying. At the ropeline, it’s usually the first. Welcoming a respected colleague to the stage, usually the latter. A respected opponent gets a straight shake with eye contact and a smile. A less respected one misses out the eyes, or gets a fake smile.

The way we make physical contact with each other cannot be understated, especially in business.

38 AcmeNews May 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Unless there is a medical reason for a left-handed shake, the right hand is the only acceptable hand in America.

I once got a left-handed shake from a restaurant owner, whom I was thanking for a good meal. He was leaning on his right hand and was either too lazy or too stupid to offer me his right hand.

As I was shaking his left hand with my right, I looked him in the eyes, thanked him for the meal, and added “I will never eat here again.”

The restaurant closed two years later. Coincidence? I think not.

39 Realistic Pencil Drawings June 5, 2009 at 1:46 am

very interesting. a handshake can tell you alot about a person, so your handshake should be representative of who you are.

40 Phelps July 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm

I know one woman who offers what I would call a victorian handshake. She offers just the fingers and holds the hand sideways relative to the normal orientation (palm facing the floor). This is unusual, but definitely has an air of class about it.

I’m in the legal world and do a lot of handshaking (as do the women) and was going to mention this too. It’s an easy signal — if she holds her hand for a handshake, give her one. If she holds her hand out palm down, then it is appropriate to lightly hold her fingers (no handle pumping, guys) and let go after a moment.

And guys, it isn’t a contest. If you start shaking hands with her, and she’s barely grasping your hand, go easy. Don’t limp fish it just because she is, but do dial it back a couple of degrees and double-check to make sure that you aren’t unconsciously being a crusher.

For any ladies reading this, if you have small hands or have been manhandled by a few crushers and are gun shy, try the horizontal offer. You will at least find out of the guy is paying attention. The kinds of guys who are on AoM are likely to appreciate a lady-like Lady.

41 Kile August 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm

…and make SURE you take ahold of the ENTIRE hand when shaking, y’all…
Most irritating when a novice does the voice and firm handshake thing, then grabs only the fingers….GET THAT PALM!

we now return you to your regular programming…

42 CANGEO September 25, 2009 at 1:19 am

hello does anyone know what the handshake guys in Ireland is about? as in the meaning?

43 Keith Ford October 9, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Can anyone offer a suggestion to those perverse men who steadfastly avoid the thumb-in-thumb firm handshake, and instead latch on to just to the fingers, then give them a crush? It makes you feel like you were the one who flubbed the handshake, and you can’t grip them at all, because they have your fingers. It makes me want to ball up my handshake into a fist, then use it.

I also find it very interesting to have some guy try to crush my hand. I am a big man (6’3″, 260 lbs) and it often seems to come from much shorter men, and they try to see if they can make me wince with their bone-crusher handshake. I try to maintain a firm, even pressure despite their efforts to break my hand, but it still irritates the heck out of me. If I wanted to hurt someone shaking their hand, I could, but that is not the point of the handshake. I generally do no offer to shake hands with someone I want to hurt.

44 Reality check November 30, 2009 at 3:04 am

Women are biologically different from men. The different handshake for m to w is an acknowledgement of this reality, and there is nothing wrong or demeaning about it. Women will never be 100% equal with men, no matter how we might wish it so.

45 Laurie March 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm

This was an interesting read. I am gunshy when it comes to handshakes. I’m a woman with small hands and a tendency toward tendinitis and arthritis, even though I’m not currently wearing a brace on my hand. I’m going to have to remember that palm down maneuver.

46 SKM April 4, 2010 at 11:15 am

Women will never be 100% equal with men, no matter how we might wish it so.

Wow. OK, just a general reminder: equal doesn’t mean identical; it never has. Moving on.

Like Laurie, I have small hands and (more than a tendency to) arthritis and tendonitis. I still deliver and appreciate firm, web-to-web handshakes. I do not like it when a man gives me a finger-shake; I have no way of knowing if he does that to everyone or if he views (and will thus treat) me as weaker than the men around him. A man who assumes I am weak or generally an alien species is not someone I want to work with and I would certainly never go out him.

Does a good firm handshake hurt my arthritic hand? Some days, yes. And you know what–so does just about everything else I have to do with my hands. Rest assured; I am used to it, so don’t sweat it. I imagine a man with rheumatoid arthritis might tell you the same, though of course I don’t speak for everyone.

As for hand-crushers: bone-crushing shakes strike me as a sign of insecurity. Please avoid them. Maybe practice with a friend to get your pressure calibrated?

When I do get attacked by a bone-crusher, I find that turning the handshake into a two-hander by putting my other hand on the back of the shaker’s often causes him to let up a bit.

Finally, never underestimate the power of the respectful nod-in-passing. You may come across someone who you have seen, say, in a meeting but don’t really know well enough to stop and talk and shake hands. Do still acknowledge this person with brief (never flirtatious!) eye contact and a polite but friendly nod. A little respect goes a long way.

47 Mauricio August 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Perfect!
I’m in the automotive business, working as a project manager in a german car maker, and I’ve always paid attention to the hands-shaking rules. I do pretty much what you said, except for the strengh of the grip. I usually shake male hands with more strengh then it would be usual (in fact, some of my dpt colleagues used to call me ‘wrench’ when I got here).
In the other hand (and forgive me for the pun), when I shake a woman’s hand, I’m do it firmly (and stronger then her), but not too strong, and I noticed how that gives them a good impression about me. Actually, it’s usual here in Brazil to kiss cheeks when you are introduced to a girl in a casual occasions (at a party, club, bar, etc), but I’ve been changing that for a kind and firm handshake, plus a discrete smile and eye-to-eye glance, with impressively good results. The main pros are: The grip shows strengh and confidence, the smile shows kindness and the gaze can give an impression of honesty and transparency. All these things help to create comfort, which is a prior stage to the attraction.
Some guys would say the basic kissing cheeks tradition would be better if you are wearing a good perfume, but I believe it’s more important to create confidente and comfort first, and then she’ll pay more attention to your perfume, your voice, your clothing, etc…

Congrats for the excellent article.

48 Austin August 14, 2010 at 10:19 pm

@Mauricio Yes, I completely agree.
As for everyone else and the author, I find it great when you’re at a restaurant, and you shake your waiter or waitresses’ hand and tell them your name. They provide better service, are more friendly, and they will most definitely remember you. Just think- how many people do you think shake the waiter’s hand? My mother used to be a waitress, and she used to always say if waiters liked a customer, then they’d basically fight over that customer and try to be a better waiter, ha ha. But trust me guys, it really helps.

49 Malachi Styx June 9, 2013 at 5:03 am

My apologies if someone covered this earlier but I didn’t notice it in my rudimentary scan of the comments…

A Handshake is a very old custom. It originates, at the very latest, from the time a Man carried a sword. The handshake is by tradition and custom with the right hand, this being generally the sword bearing/wielding hand and arm. The hand was offered to show that a measure of trust and respect was offered and was either rejected or reciprocated by the other party to accept and to offer the same trust. A handshake was not just offered when on foot but also when on horseback. The custom and tactics of horseback combat also influenced the sides of the road we drive on (I’m an Englishman). Understanding the purpose of the original handshaking practice opens up a new aspect to meeting and greeting and by inference one should always be honourable after offering your hand, especially if it is accepted.

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