The Real Deal

The power of the handshake!

Most of us are aware that using your right hand for a handshake is proper etiquette. But did you know that there is a lot more to a handshake? A handshake can be used upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or when completing an agreement. The handshake was first practiced in ancient Greece and has been around since 5th-century BC. To some, the handshake is a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapons. I know the topic of a handshake seems a little elementary, but I figured if I had some questions, someone else may have the same ones. A few of you know that I recently started working for a marketing firm here in Grandville. During my first couple weeks on the job I did not shake my managers hand before leaving the office for the day. We work one on one, and besides my internship this past winter, I had never experienced this type of laid back business atmosphere. I enjoy keeping things old school, using manners, and certain etiquettes while being in a business or learning environment. Before I would leave the office those first few weeks there was always a pause before leaving, where I felt I should be shaking his hand, but I was not sure if I should be shaking his hand, and it bothered me that I didn’t know what was right and wrong. I think it bothered me because it is something I have been doing for years, but had no idea if I was doing it right or not.  I put out a quick poll on social media. Untitled Design (10)“To shake or not to shake? that is the question.” It turns out, most of my friends agreed, I should be shaking his hand after every meeting. I am aware that the person reading this may not know my friends and you could be wondering why you would take advice from them. Well, I also recently had this subject come up in my sales class. I figured someone else might not know the proper handshake etiquette like myself and I would share some of this knowledge with you. Handshakes are different in every country. In the U.S a limp handshake can be considered “a dead handshake” whereas in China, a firm handshake can be considered rude. If you are planning to travel I would read up on the countries customs that you are traveling to and abide by their traditions. Handshakes can also spread germs, so just be sure to use proper hand washing methods, anti-bacterial solutions, and avoid touching your face after shaking someone’s hand, though they may look like a nice clean individual, they could have skipped out on using the soap in the bathroom.

The power of the handshake, if practiced properly, can add value to this nonverbal message. Research indicates that when two people communicate, nonverbal messages convey much more impact than verbal messages. Today a handshake is an important symbol of respect and, in most business settings, it is a proper greeting. The handshake can communicate warmth, genuine concern for the prospect, and an image of strength. It can also communicate aloofness, indifference, and weakness.

The message we communicate with a handshake is determined by a combination of five factors:

  1. Eye contact during the handshake. Eyes transmit more information than any other part of the body, so maintain eye contact throughout the handshaking process and display a pleasant smile.
  2. Degree of firmness. A firm handshake communicates a caring attitude, whereas a weak grip (the “dead-fish” handshake) communicates indifference.
  3. Depth of interlock. A full, deep grip communicates friendship to the other person.
  4. Duration of the grip. There are no specific guidelines to tell us what the ideal duration of a grip should be. However, by extending the duration of the handshake we can often communicate more interest and concern for the other person. Do not pump up and down more than once or twice.
  5. Degree of dryness of the hands. A moist palm not only is uncomfortable to handle, but also can communicate the impression you are quite nervous. Some people have a physiological problem that causes clammy hands and should keep a handkerchief within reach to remove excess moisture.

As Indira Gandhi said “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist”

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