The Handshake

Image: Creative Commons License

I think one of the greatest lessons I may have learned in college is how to shake hands.  In my business communication course, we actually spent a whole class devoted to shaking hands.  It may seem silly and trivial to spend several hours discussing how to properly shake hands with someone, but a bad handshake can break an otherwise great business deal.

A good handshake is part of your body language.
A GOOD handshake tells the other person:

  • I’m confident.
  • I’m trustworthy.
  • I’m careful.
  • I can do what you are hiring me to do.

On the contrary, a bad handshake gives the other person a negative impression.
A BAD handshake tells the other person:

  • I’m nervous.
  • I’m shy. (This can also be confused for “I’m snobby”.)
  • I don’t want to know you.
  • I don’t want to shake your hand.
  • I doubt myself.

So, what qualifies for a good handshake?

  • Shake with your PALM, not with your finger tips.
    You want to go for the other person’s palm.  Your goal is to be PALM TO PALM with that person.  Reaching only for the finger tips will result in the “limp fish handshake”.
  • Be Firm
    To have a firm handshake, be a participant.  Don’t expect the other person to do the shaking.  It should be a mutual, rhythmic exchange.
  • Timing is everything
    You want to shake hands for 2-3 seconds… not too long, not too short.
  • Look into the other person’s eyes
    You might have a great handshake, but if the rest of  your body language doesn’t follow, you’ve lost it.  Be confident in your total body language.  When you shake someone’s hand: look at them.  Don’t look away.

Not sure how your handshake measures up?  Ask a friend to be honest with you.  And… if your handshake is a little weak: PRACTICE.  It may sound silly, but it’s an important part of the way your project yourself as a business owner.


  1. says

    Great post! It drives me nuts when someone gives me a limp handshake (especially when it is not what you are expecting from someone)

  2. says

    Nothing kills me more than a bad handshake! This teacher I had in middle school always impressed upon us the importance of a good handshake. Every day when we went to class we had to shake his hand before we walked in. If he didn’t like it, we had to walk away and do it again. One of the best lessons you could ever give someone!

  3. says

    THANK YOU! I was recently at a pretty big networking event and sooo many people had the “dead fish” handshake. I really hate that. My grandmother made sure I had a firm, authoritative handshake. I’ve even gotten compliments on it. : )

  4. says

    I agree with everyone else. A ‘dead fish’ handshake drives me mad. What I don’t understand is how did those people learn how to shake hands? Who told them limp hand is acceptable?

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