Posted: 2014-08-18 01:47:44

Hand shakes matter. They are an important part of our business (and personal) life. Getting it wrong can create awkward moments and distract from making a good first impression.

We’ve all been there when we’ve met someone new and as part of the initial introduction we shake their hands - but instead of the solid, firm and confident hand shake we expect, we get a limp fish, a crushing gripper, or a sweaty slip.

Getting your handshake wrong is a sure-fire way of not making a good first impression. My favourite handshake mistakes are:

The sweaty slip – some people have a natural tendency to get sweaty hands and many get them when they are nervous, that’s just normal. It can make shaking hands tricky in stressful situations such as job interviews. However, there is no excuse for a wet handshake.

The limp fish - not gripping the other person’s hand firm enough and then shaking from your wrist is a big mistake because the messages received about the other person doing that include: ‘I am not confident’ or ‘I am a push-over’.

The pinch – when someone pinches your fingers with their fingers. This is maybe something the Queen does, but has no place in real life. Again, this half-hearted handshake sends signals like ‘I am not bothered about shaking your hands properly’ or ‘I don’t think you deserve a proper handshake’.

The hand-holder – where the person shaking your hand keeps holding on and thinks he is actually holding hands with you rather than shaking hands. After anything more than 3 shakes natural instinct tells us to pull our hand back and say ‘let go, why are we holding hands now?’

The avoider – someone that doesn’t make eye contact when they shake your hand or someone that pulls their hand away too quickly. This again signals that they are either under-confident, very shy, or they don’t really want to shake hands.

The crushing gripper – when you shake someone’s hand and it feels like they are crushing every single bone in your hand. A hand shake that is too firm will make anyone feel uncomfortable. It makes you think ‘is the person trying to hurt me on purpose?’ and triggers a natural ‘I need to run away’ instinct.

All of these show that the person shaking hands is lacking basic social skills. It might be that people are not really aware of how they are shaking hands. In saying this, there are cultural differences and customs to consider. For example, people in China prefer a weaker handshake, in most Islamic countries it is not always appropriate for a man to shake hands with a woman, and that people in Thailand don’t like shaking hands at all.


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