Face time with a prospective client, employer or investor is premium time. Why would you want to make a first impression that includes a bad hand handshake? Hopefully, you wouldn’t knowingly fail at shaking hands, so let’s review this particular soft skill.
Handshakes are literally a way to bring someone close to us, so we can decide if we want to continue interacting. You probably wouldn’t end a meeting after someone offers you a limp shake, but you absolutely file it away mentally in the “CON” column. It’s thought that handshakes originated to show the other person that you didn’t have a weapon and that you had no ill intent.
Consider this - when shaking hands with someone, you bring them close enough to look them in the eyes and to smell them. Sounds odd but keep in mind that scent is the only sense tied to memory, so the nose knows. It’s a way to be intimate, without being intimate.
Handshakes should be firm without being bone-crunching. It’s not (usually) an athletic contest. Offer your full hand, not just the tips of the fingers. No one, and I mean no one, enjoys a limp or moist handshake. And since you’re not getting water from a well, don’t pump. One or two up/down movements and you’re golden. According to history.com, there is a Victorian-era guide that cautions, “A gentleman who rudely presses the hand offered him in salutation, or too violently shakes it, ought never to have an opportunity to repeat his offense.” This goes for women as well.
When I was growing up, my dad would comment after the fact if someone gave him a bad handshake. It immediately downgraded his opinion of the person. In the Digital Age, when personal meetings take on extra levels of importance and time is money, make sure that you’re always offering your best hand forward.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company utilizes theater strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.