Manner Monday: The Handshake

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Well since SHRM has come and gone we’re posting our Manner Monday a tad late, but it’s fitting because today is National Handshake Day! Learn about the handshake as it relates to the workplace! 

In honor of National Handshake Day,  I thought it would be fun to talk about the importance of a nice firm handshake, and the not-so-good ones.

A handshake is meant to convey trust.  It can also lend an air of equality, provide balance amongst parties, and show respect.  A good handshake sends a great nonverbal message, adding to all of the other components that create a positive first impression.  A poor handshake leaves the person on the receiving end thinking, “ugh”.

A handshake offered in the form of a “limp fish” makes for a less than stellar first impression.  So does the “bone crusher”; the handshake is not an opportunity for you to, literally, exert your power.

Another popular greeting is the “politician”, where the right hand cups over the handshake.  This is a very intimate handshake and should be saved for more personal or social situations – once you’ve gotten to know each other a bit better.  Think of it more as a ‘kiss on the cheek’.

The “fist bump” has gained popularity in casual settings.  While a fist bump can sometimes be an appropriate replacement for a greeting: the business world and formal occasions still require a formal handshake.  Basically, you can’t walk into an interview or business meeting and offer up a fist bump expecting to get the job or seal the deal.

Here are some tips to polish your good old-fashioned handshake to make it shine:

  • Always stand (if able) when shaking someone’s hand.
  • Hands should be clasped, so that the bases of the thumbs meet.  There should be firm pressure, but not too tight (see “bone crusher” above).
  • Make eye contact when shaking hands.
  • When shaking hands with someone in your office, come out from behind your desk.
  • Be patient and give the person you are shaking hands with your attention, don’t look past them to the next person, rushing them along.

Keep in mind; some cultures have different theories on the handshake and initial greetings. If you’re traveling abroad, or doing business with people from another culture, do your research and find out: should you shake, should you bow, or should you kiss on the cheek. Otherwise, you may find yourself making a blunder that could put your business deal in jeopardy before you even have a chance to say “Hello, my name is …”

So the next time you have the opportunity to shake hands, give your self-confidence a boost…look the person in the eye and offer a nice firm handshake – and make a great first impression.

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