The Handshake: “Your Ultimate Letter of Introduction”

We spend considerable time and money on our business cards because they represent us and our company. You wouldn’t think of handing someone a bent, tattered or smeared business card. The same thinking applies to how you shake hands.

The handshake is one of the most important things we do. It is at the core of our personal development.  How we shake hands speaks volumes about who we are and how we feel about ourselves, and how open and available we are to others. It’s not just our handshake that’s revealing, but also how the rest of our body takes part in this act.

Have you noticed some of these less-than-effective handshakes?

> The Halfer: When I get the the “half-a-hand,” I become suspicious. Is this person afraid if they make full contact with their hand  they’ll give too much of themselves? Are they uncomfortable making full contact and so offer only half? Men often shake women’s hands with a dainty “halfer” which feels like a power play, with the woman viewed as worthy only of partial engagement. Women often shake each other’s hands with a halfer as well. Are we afraid of appearing too masculine?

> The Limp Noodle:   The limp handshake makes me wonder if the person is really present. I’m tempted to check for a pulse. If this is the level of energy they are offering to the world, what does it say about their personality?

  • The Bone Crusher:  As a woman, I’m particularly puzzled by this insensitive power play. Though mostly delivered by men, there are also women who give bone crushers perhaps to assert dominance.  What are bone crushers compensating for or proving? Perhaps they indicate self-importance, insecurity or maybe just cluelessness.
  • The Bone Crusher Pull:  This relative of the Bone Crusher seeks to dominate the interaction even more by crushing the hand and pulling the person towards him at the same time. This person clearly seeks to define the interaction on his terms, not yours.

> The Push-Away:  Some people give a handshake and at the same time pull away.  It’s as if they can’t wait to get it over with, or end the awkwardness it makes them feel.  This is a person who is not comfortable with contact.

> The Hit & Run:  This person barely makes contact with your hand. They never heard your name, probably made poor eye contact and were likely too caught up in themselves to care.

A terrific handshake can confirm or cement a relationship – or start one!  Practice these techniques to enhance your personal and professional image:

> The Great Handshake:

1.       Face the person with your whole body, standing squarely on both feet, if possible.

2.       Lean slightly towards the person—remember, you are extending yourself.

3.       Offer your whole hand; don’t worry if they give you a “halfer.” You can still hold
your space in the interaction.

4.       Make solid eye contact

5.       Bring your personality into your handshake

7.       Smile!

8.       Extend a sense of confidence, security and warmth.

Physical contact is at the core of the handshake and needs to be reexamined by many businesspeople as a part of the way they conduct business communication. This classic gesture of greeting is a physical exchange of who you are. Men and women alike need to be present and offer a firm, full-contact handshake.  Remember, when you extend your hand, you are extending yourself and showing that you want to connect with someone. Make the contact a favorable one for both of you. There are times when a job or a deal can depend on this one gesture. All things being equal, which person would you hire:  the one with the great handshake, who is energetic and warm or the one who offers half a hand, has low energy and is rather reserved?

 

 

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