Archives for posts with tag: Body language

You can tell a lot from a handshake. First impressions and all that.

It’s not that the handshake is the only component of greeting someone. It’s the accompanying smile, the eye contact, the body facing the other person.

I once attended a corporate speaking engagement where the guy said the optimal time to clasp someone’s hand in a business handshake is 2 seconds. Anything shorter is a touch disrespectful, anything more is uncomfortable for the other person. Then there’s the angle of hand of the person leading the handshake. Palm down is a power play, palm up is subservient but also friendly.

As I said, it’s not only the handshake. It’s about eye contact, a ready smile, and physical engagement. I’ve seen people line up a handshake and actually be turned away for the moment of contact as they move onto the next person or thing. Not good.

When I shake someone’s hand, I extend my hand upright, with the arm at three-quarter length. A straight arm and they’re too far away, half arm makes them come into your personal space, another power play. My fingers are slightly splayed to stop someone gripping too soon and getting your fingers and none of your hand. I smile, face the person properly and apply a medium grip. If someone has a strong grip I increase my grip pressure; if a weaker grip I ease off on the grip. I don’t bother to adjust the angle of the power player’s or servile/friendly hand, as you’re advised to do. I simply go with it. Ladies and Gents, a medium grip is the minimum really. You don’t want to offer some a wet fish, and you don’t need a handshake like a docker’s vice to assert your personality.

Always good to say one’s name slowly to help the other person remember it. Telling them it’s good to meet them never hurts either.

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What is it with a limp handshake? When someone greets you with a wet fish for a handshake, it’s sometimes hard to shake off the first impression that someone is weak, diffident or not interested in you.

A firm handshake costs you nothing and sets off that first-time greeting or regular hello on an equal footing, no pun intended.

Notice that I’ve titled this post ‘a firm handshake’, not ‘the firm handshake’. I’ve written before about my love for the definite article, but here its sister the indefinite article is better. There is no single firm handshake, unless, I guess, you’re a practising member of a quasi-secret society.

Any kind of firm handshake will do. It doesn’t have to be a bone-crusher. Go into the greeting with something in the mid-rage of grip solidity and adjust according to the grip you’re given.

Incidentally, if you do come across one of those people – male or female – who has to grab you like a vice every time, or you simply have smaller hands, then I find that slightly pointing the index finger takes the knuckles on your hand out of alignment and alleviates the pressure. Then you can eyeball them with your favourite ‘I’m onto you matey’ look.