What Your Handshake Says about You

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What Your Handshake Says about You

04.05.2008 ob 16:05

It must have happened to you at some point that when shaking someone’s hand you felt all the bones in your fingers and the feeling of someone crushing your hand probably wasn’t a pleasant one. It can be especially painful when a man shakes the hand of a woman who is wearing several rings. For some men a handshake is an expression of masculinity, however, it is not very polite to shake a woman’s hand so strongly.
It can be even worse – and you must also have felt this – when someone offers you a limp hand that is possibly also sweaty and cold and when you shake it you felt like you are holding a dead fish. A very unpleasant feeling as a handshake is supposed to be a part of etiquette, a pleasant custom that forms the first impression about the person we are shaking hands with. The way we shake hands shows what kind of a person we are. The handshake should not be too long, it should be moderate, yet firm and strong. We should also look the other person in the eyes when shaking hands. This reveals our character, professionalism and self-confidence, respect, and most of all that we are a trustworthy person. It is the only way to create a good impression in the beginning instead of wasting the opportunity.

The shaking of hands has been a ritual used since the dawn of the first civilisations. Originally, the handshake was used to show that we are not holding a weapon (considering the rate of crimes committed with the use of weapons, this is not a bad idea for the present times either) and as a symbol of peace and friendship. Today it is customary when meeting new people, in meetings, in expressing congratulations, for the completion of a (successfully) concluded business deal or just to say »How’s it going?« to someone. The shaking of hands is the most general and the most widely spread form of greeting, even more popular than kissing or bowing. It is a sign of trust that can form the basis for the formation of strong interpersonal relationships.
According to a survey carried out in the United States in 2001, many prospective employers said that they would sooner overlook a piercing or a tattoo in a prospective employee than an ineffective or impersonal handshake. And there are many possibilities for people with whom you shake hands to remember you.

In the business world there is a rule that the one that offers their hand first is the one in a higher position in the social hierarchy. Furthermore, the woman is the one who offers the hand to the man and not the other way around. However, this is not really customary in Slovenia. Etiquette allows women not to offer the hand first if they do not desire to do so. It is also the older person that offers the hand to the younger person. However in practice, this is not always the case. Despite this we accept the offered hand. If someone shakes our hand with the other hand in their pocket or holding a cigarette, this can be very disturbing and can be a sign of disrespect and poor manners.
Etiquette also states that in Western Europe you only shake hands with the same person two times a day. When wearing gloves, a man has to take them off when shaking hands while the woman, according to etiquette, does not have to do so.
In the US, businessmen always shake hands when making introductions, while businesswomen do not do this very often. In Japan, the greeting is performed with a long, deep bow, while the Chinese use both practices with the peculiarity of greeting in China being that the persons do not look in each other’s eyes. In the Arab world, people greet one another with the greeting As salaam alaykum (Peace be with you), and only then does the handshake ensue. They will sometimes place their hand on your right shoulder and kiss you on both cheeks, but only if you are a man. In case of a greeting between a man and a woman, the woman greets by gently moving her head and not offering her hand, while the man greets her with his right hand placed on the heart. In the majority of Western European countries a firm grasp, a pat on the back or a handshake with both hands are considered impolite. Polish men are used to kissing a woman’s hand as a form of greeting, which is a practice that is becoming increasingly common in Western Europe.
Below, we are offering some advice that can help you avoid painful handshakes, embarrassment and consequently ruined first impressions and possibly the loss of business:
1. »Bone cruncher«: a grasp of the hand that almost causes the crushing of all the bones in the hand and fingers that we often encounter even with businesspeople. What is it that we are trying to prove with this? I think that there is no need for the display of physical strength in the ordinary handshake.
2. »Coward«: this is usually a handshake by a man who is afraid of »crushing a petite lady« when shaking hands with a woman. However, modern businesswomen expect equal treatment and therefore a normal grasp of the hand by their male counterparts.
3. »Dead fish«: reveals no display of strength. While there is no need for the »bone cruncher « handshake, a firm grasp of the hand has greater value than an offered limp hand.
4. »Finger vice«: when a person you intend to shake hands with as a greeting does not offer you the entire hand but shakes hands with just four of your fingers.
5. »Cold and slippery«: is when you feel you are shaking hands with a snake. I suggest you warm your hands slightly before shaking hands with someone.
6. »Sweaty, sticky palm«: inappropriate exposure, but primarily embarrassing. A touch of baby powder might be in order.
7. »Politician«: it happens when a person you are shaking hands with covers your hand with their left hand as a sort of secret handshake.
8. »The lingering handshake«: it happens when the handshake just does not end because the other person will not let go of your hand. After two or three grasps and shakes, it is time to let go. This is similar to a kiss when it is obvious when it has ended.
9. »Auxiliary hand«: when a person with whom you are about to shake hands is holding food or a beverage, or perhaps even a cigarette in their right hand and therefore offers you their left hand. So you should always hold food or beverages with your left hand so that the right one is ready for a potential handshake.
10. »Ring torture«: can occur when people have such rings or several of them that can cause you pain during a handshake. Try to limit the number of rings on your right hand to one or two and primarily be weary of those with large stones.

Three steps towards an appropriate handshake:
• When approaching a person, extend your right arm when you are approximately a metre away. Then slightly bend it in front of your chest with your thumb facing upwards.
• This is followed by a firm handshake, without, of course, breaking any bones.
• Grasp the hand and shake it once or twice, then release.
We wish you many successful handshakes!

translation by alkemist d.o.o.