What’s in a handshake? A lot more than you realize. Here’s a quick review of the basics—and pitfalls to avoid
You know the old saying, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When working with customers, part of that first impression often comes with a smile and a handshake.
This traditional greeting says more about you than you know. If done correctly, the person you’ve just met will think of you as confident and trustworthy. If done poorly, she will assume you are either weak or overbearing.
Take a minute to remind yourself of the basics.
O Before, during and after: Before you extend your hand, introduce yourself. Smile. Make and hold eye contact. During the handshake, only pump your hand two to three times. Any longer starts to feel awkward. Shake from your elbow, not your shoulder.
O Proper form: Extend your right hand, thumb straight up, and slide your hands together until they connect at the web of thumb and forefinger of both hands. Gently press your bottom three fingers against the back of the other person’s hand.
O The grip: Done properly, a good handshake should be firm and communicate sincerity, strength and professionalism, says Dianne M. Daniels, a certified image coach and author of “Polish and Presence: 31 Days to a New Image.” But how firm is firm? About.com offers this helpful tidbit: “Imagine you are opening a door handle and use about the same level of grip in your handshake.”
For something that’s so common in American business and retail culture, it’s surprising how many mistakes you can make when pressing the flesh. Some pitfalls to avoid:
O The crusher: Some people use a handshake as an opportunity to show their strength. Don’t. Such a powerful handshake leaves an impression of someone out to win a power struggle.
O Underselling: On the opposite end of the spectrum, avoid offering the dreaded “dead fish”—a limp, barely there handshake. Or, just as bad, only offering your fingers, not your whole hand to shake. You want people to feel welcomed. This, however,
O Two-fisted: Unless you’re congratulating a family member or someone else you know well, avoid sandwiching their hand between the two of yours. It comes across as too personal or insincere.
O Never let them see you sweat: It’s natural to have sweaty palms when you’re nervous. To avoid a sweaty handshake, make sure you unobtrusively wipe your palms on your clothing before extending your hand. And if you’re the recipient of a sweaty handshake, wait until you’re out of sight before cleaning your hands to avoid embarrassing the person you just met.