When you are meeting someone for the first time, the handshake is the only body contact you will make. A handshake can convey friendliness, strength, and kindness. However, it might communicate weakness and a general lack of interest.
If you use two hands in your usual handshake (wrapping both your hands around the other person’s hand), the action may signal warmth and affection. However, it can also seem too familiar when you are first introduced. Save this handshake for old friends.
An effective, professional handshake is an important business skill to master. Here are five qualities to guide your handshake:
1) Degree of Firmness
Grip firmly, but not so tight as to inflict discomfort. Be considerate of acquaintances in a receiving line shaking many hands, those with many rings on, or elderly contacts who may be fragile. Allow your contact to guide the grip as well.
2) Dryness of Hand
This should be a given. Dry your hand with a napkin if you have been holding a cold glass. Likewise, use your napkin if you have been eating from a buffet.
3) Depth of Grip
A proper handshake is when your palm overlaps the other person’s palm, with your hand perpendicular. In some cultures, a palm facing up can be a sign of submissiveness, and a palm facing up may be a sign of aggressiveness.
4) Duration of Grip
An ideal handshake should last around the 3 seconds. Though not required, you may lightly pump your guest’s hand a couple of times. Pull back your hand after the three-second mark, even if you are still speaking with the other person.
5) Eye Contact
Handshakes go hand in hand with eye contact in places like North America, while other cultures do not explicitly have this custom. Know your audience.
Shaking hands is not customary in all cultures. If you meet someone and are not sure about their custom, you have a couple of polite options. You can wait until the other person reaches out. Or, you could lightly clasp your own hands in front of you or place your hand on your chest as you say, “Pleased to meet you.”
Be sure to practice your handshake with your manager, co-workers, and friends using these tips. Encourage them to give you suggestions on how you can improve your professional handshake.