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Set the tone with a strong handshake

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in Workplace Communication

Here’s a scenario for you: Rashid meets Lori in her office, and both nervously shake hands. Lori notices what feels like a wimpy, limp clasp. Both think to themselves, “Yuck, what a shake.” 

A two-second exchange like that can create unease and discomfort in the relationship. Whose fault is it? It’s probably Lori’s.

“Women get lousy shakes because they set the stage for them,” says Debra Benton, whom The Wall Street Journal once called one of the “top five executive coaches to have a speed dial.”

Benton says women typically extend their hand with fingers in a palm-down motion.  Men clasp the women’s fingers and they get “fingers to palm” contact.

“It ends up feeling uncomfortable for both,” she says. “Men don’t shake fingers to palm with other men; they shake palm to palm.”

To increase the chance of both people getting a fair shake:

1. A woman should turn her wrist perpendicular to the floor when she extends her hand to shake, with a sort of “put ‘er there, Mac” (palm to palm).

2. Convey sincerity by adding the left hand to create a two-handed shake, politician-style. The left hand grasps the other person’s hand or wrist while shaking. 

3. Make the shake even more personal and sincere by placing your left hand on the other person’s elbow.

The CEO of PAC Inc., John Krebbs says he gives a “bear hug” to people he meets for the first time. “They relax and enjoy it or go catatonic—but they never forget it.” 

And that, says Benton, is what a handshake should do: make you memorable.

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