Do You Have Annoying Handshake Habits?

June 28 is National Handshake Day. Celebrate with the Public Speaker and learn the right (and wrong) ways to shake hands.

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read
Episode #256


Your handshake can be too weak or too strong; too wet, or too long. From there to here and from here to there, funny handshakes are everywhere. 

I was with my sister Deb (Dr. Deborah Boehm-Davis) just a few weeks ago. It was just after graduation ceremonies.  She is the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University. Her hand was bruised and sore from all the shaking – or should I say, all the bad handshakes!

So I thought National Handshake Day would be the perfect time to talk about the most annoying handshake habits: from the kind that leave you bruised and aching, to the kind that make you feel the need to wash your hands. I’m sure you’ve experienced some of these:

  1. The Dead Fish: The limp, weak handshake that makes you feel like you’ve just picked up a dead fish. When shaking a limp hand, be sure to loosen your grip!

  2. The Death Grip: The handshake that grabs on and squeezes until your fingers turn purple and you feel like they’re going to fall off.  You might have to shake your wrist a couple of times afterward to get your blood pumping again. This type of handshake is usually a hint about the person’s need to be in control. 

  3. The Short-Fingered Shake: This person seems afraid to commit to the shake and doesn’t extend their fingers enough for you to make good contact. Try to lean in with your body to create a web-to-web connection with your hands. 

  4. The Double Pump: Just when you think the handshake is about to end, the shaker pumps your hand not just once, but twice before letting go.  It might remind you of the secret handshake you and your friends used as children. This one is usually due to cultural differences. 

  5. The Lingerer: This person just doesn’t want to let go, even when you loosen your grip. When you pull away, try to use your hand for something specific:  to grab a drink or your phone for example. 

  6. The “I need a Towel” Shake: Shaking hands with a person who has sweaty palms will leave you looking for a napkin or towel or running to the nearest restroom. Keep in mind that for some people the sweatiness is very difficult to control, particularly if they are under stress.  If you are the one with the sweaty problem, there are products to reduce hand sweat.

Your handshake says a lot about you. It may be the first impression you make on someone. A strong, confident handshake is an important business tool, and it’s easy to master. Here are 6 basic tips to improve your grip:


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.

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