The Power of a Handshake

Throughout life, we are constantly put into situations in which we are meeting new and unfamiliar people. Whether during interviews or at business meetings, initial introductions are necessary, including the typically dreaded handshakes. The momentary touching of hands, though brief in duration, is one of the most important first impressions a person can make. But are there improper ways to shake hands? You just reach out and hope it works right?

Wrong. The handshake is a multifaceted process that not only demonstrates politeness or cordiality, it truly embodies a person’s professionalism and attitude. It is one of few moments in which a future boss and potential employee make physical contact. It can either strengthen the prospective employee’s rapport with the employer or it can unfortunately leave the employer feeling uneasy and unimpressed.  

According to CareerBuilder.com in a CNN article, “when you shake hands with people upon meeting, they’re two times more likely to remember you than if you didn’t shake hands, according to a study by the Incomm Center for Trade Show Research.”

Here are three ways to leave bosses, colleagues, or acquaintances with the impression that you are confident and self-aware.

1. Put them in the palm of your hand. 
When meeting someone for the first time, stand while greeting them. Make sure to step or lean forward, making direct, but not creepy, eye contact. Smile pleasantly as you focus on extending your arm, hand outstretched and thumb straight up. This allows both parties to connect their hands web-to-web. Slide your hand into theirs until webs make contact and pump the hand twice. The two pumps of the hand make it just long enough to make the connection, but do not overwhelm or cheat the recipient. Greet the other person and repeat his or her name after they have introduced themselves. This will help you to remember their name later.

2. Limp won’t cut it 
The term “limp fish” resonates with a lot of people who have experienced this type of handshake. It is by far one of the most uncomfortable, awkward, and disappointing moments two people can share. The lack of firmness or full web to web contact communicates timidity, passivity or intimidation. The proper handshake should project an energy that communicates sincerity, strength and professionalism, as well as warmth and a welcoming attitude. Although the handshake does not need to crush the other person’s hand, it should be firm and should use the web to web technique.

3. Counter the chill
Nerves can have many odd and annoying effects on the body, including making hands cold or sweaty. Unfortunately, this can cause the recipient some discomfort when handshaking. Before an interview or a business meeting, be sure to warm up your hands by rubbing them together or even sitting on them. If they are sweaty, dry them as best you can. These techniques will help prepare your hands to be perfectly ready for handshaking. If you are the person receiving a sweaty palm, do not wipe your hand on your pant leg after you greet them.   

Don’t forget that if at first you don’t succeed, try again! If the first attempt at the handshake does not go well, a quick joke acknowledging the mistake can show humor and make light of the situation.

By: Nicole Sullivan

Nicole is a Junior Mass Communication major with minors in Advertising and Journalism. She is currently involved in PRSSA-UD and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. 

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