North American Business Handshaking

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

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read

Another thing that sometimes happens is that the other person’s hand isn’t perpendicular to the floor. Some researchers suggest that a palm facing down communicates authority, while a palm facing up communicates submission. Depending on the situation, you’ll need to decide if you want to gently correct this or not, by gently moving the other person’s hand during the shake.


To end the shake, some people like to pump once or twice. You can do this, but you don’t want to linger too long. Again, three to four seconds is typical. Once you feel the grip of the other person loosen, you should let go.

Always observe handshake subtleties. It’s a good habit to form. In business, we typically shake before and after a meeting. You’ll want to notice if there are any differences between the first and second shakes. Did the second one last a bit longer? Did the person stand a little closer to you? Did the other party smile more at you? These are all indicators that the meeting may have gone well.

So there you have it, the nitty-gritty details of how to initiate and execute an effective North American business handshake. Today, I had to bite my tongue. I almost said to the doctor, “Hey, would you like to learn how to shake hands?” Instead, I decided to write this episode.

This is Lisa B. Marshall. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.

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If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.

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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.