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North American Business Handshaking

Even if you think you know how to shake hands properly, read on…

By
Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read

I got “fished” today by a physician. For those who shake hands as much as I do, I am sure you know what I am talking about. It’s that limp, cold, and clammy hand that’s masquerading as a handshake.

How to Shake Hands

I wondered, why does she shake like that? She must not realize the impression she’s making. Specifically, one study suggests that a person with a weak handshake is perceived as introverted, shy, and not open to experience.

But that study was done here in the U.S. The doctor was a foreign national and handshakes vary by culture. For example, in France, Guatemala, and Japan handshakes are limper than in the States. In Germany they’re firm, but very brief, and in Singapore, they are longer than in the U.S. (about 10 seconds compared to three or four seconds here).

It’s very likely that no one ever trained this physician on how to shake hands following North American standards. So today’s episode is a step-by-step “how-to” for her and anyone who never received training on how to deliver an effective North American business handshake. 

Initiation

A good handshake begins with eye contact, a smile, and good posture. Long before you extend your hand, you should begin to make a connection, an emotional connection. If you are a regular listener you already know that eye contact, smiling, and good posture are three very powerful non-verbal behaviors that communicate confidence, trust, and sincerity. They make you more attractive, approachable, and memorable.

A good handshake begins with eye contact, a smile, and good posture. Long before you extend your hand, you should begin to make a connection, an emotional connection.

If you need to shake someone’s hand and you’re sitting, stand up; it’s a basic sign of respect. As you stand, quickly and discreetly make certain your hand is dry. (If necessary press it against your side. Or, if you regularly have sweaty hands you might try a product like Driclor.)

Next, move toward the other party. The idea is to meet in the middle, ending with your left foot slightly forward. It’s like a right-handed batting stance; it’ll give you balance and leverage should you need it.

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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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