When a handshake fails, things can get awkward quickly…
And since you only get ONE chance at a first impression, here’s how to shake hands – the right way.
Why Handshakes Matter
Handshakes are a crucial part of your first impression.
Handshakes even affect the outcome of negotiations.
That’s why I collected the best tips from body language and business etiquette experts… and put together the 20 do’s and don’ts for a perfect handshake.
A proper handshake should:
- Convey confidence
- Respect all the rules of etiquette
- Avoid awkwardness and embarrassment
Handshakes are pretty universal. There are only a few cultural differences. If you’re in a new place, it’s best to just check about local customs.
For most business (and personal) settings the following 20 rules are everything you need to know:
Here Are the 20 Do’s And Don’ts
- DO shake people’s hands! As the Art of Manliness points out, there’s almost never a bad time or place to shake someone’s hand when you meet them (it’s true for both women and men).
- DON’T hand anyone your sweaty or greasy hand. If necessary, casually dry or clean off your hands on the side of your pants.
- DO stand up. If you’re sitting down, get up to shake hands. It’s a sign of respect and puts you on the same level as the other person.
- DON’T give a “limp fish” handshake. And don’t shake from your wrist. It’s weird and says “I’m a pushover.” That’s NOT what you want (and that’s why it’s one of the biggest mistakes, says strategy consultant Bernard Marr over on LinkedIn.)
- DO give a firm grip. You want to to be firm but not overpowering. But what if the other person gives you a limp fish? A clever tip is to just give it a gentle squeeze. It should let the other person know to grip more firmly.
- DON’T overdo it, though… Try not to crush people’s hands! It comes off as a lame power move (or people might just wonder if you’re actually trying to hurt them lol).
- DO respect authority and age. Proper etiquette says that the person in the higher position of authority or age should be the one to initiate a handshake. For example, the interviewer at a job interview, a senior manager in a company meeting, father-in-law in private settings, etc.
- DON’T use two hands. In business, it’s best to use just one hand. Usually your right. The two-handed shake is reserved for politicians. Don’t “cup” or touch the other person’s shaking hand with your free hand, either. It’s just… awkward… when you do it to people you don’t know well.
- DO be aware of your other hand. Most importantly, keep it visible. So, don’t put your other hand in your pocket. Just keep it relaxed at the side of your body. (Side note: In a more personal setting, the rules about shaking with two hands, touching the shoulder, etc. can be different. But only if you know people well.)
- DON’T leave people hanging. When you extend your hand ALWAYS follow through. Unless you want to prank someone, of course… (which, yes, is hilarious):
- DO make your handshake last about 2-5 seconds. Follow the lead of the other person if they’re your superior (interviewer, boss, the Queen of England, etc.). With that said, most people prefer shorter handshakes so…
- DON’T keep shaking. For goodness’ sake. 3 shakes. MAX!
- DO move your hand up and down. That’s the proper motion. A handshake is NOT back and forth or side to side… it’s just slightly up and down.
- DON’T shake from the shoulder. Lahle Wolfe makes another good point about the “shaking” part of a handshake: Just use your forearm and shake from your elbow, not your shoulder.
- DO wait for the right moment. Ideally, not when they’re in the middle of a conversation… or you might be the one left hanging. Wait for the right moment, approach from the side, and then extend your hand when you’re in front of them.
- DON’T just pinch someone’s fingers. This comes off as half-hearted and disinterested. Give people your whole hand.
- DO smile. A handshake is a gesture of respect, sympathy, and appreciation. A sincere smile should go along with that. It shows you’re happy to be where you are.
- DON’T look away. Eye-contact is important during a handshake. If you avoid looking at someone when you shake their hands they’ll think a) you’re not confident or b) you don’t think the other person deserves a proper handshake.
- DO say their name. Greet the person first to get their attention and then offer your hand. It’s a smart idea to repeat the person’s name. Say something like, “It’s great to meet you, Derek.” It will help you remember the name later on. (Like, when you shake their hand to say goodbye 😉
- DON’t “hold hands.” Your handshake should end before the verbal introduction or saying-goodbye ends. Otherwise, you’re just, well, holding hands. Kinda weird lol. So, keep talking while you shake hands.
There you have it.
With these 20 do’s and don’ts you’re guaranteed to avoid any awkwardness and appear confident whenever you shake hands.
BTW you should shake hands before any important meeting.