How to Give an Excellent Handshake


The handshake is one of the oldest and most common forms of business interaction.  It could signify a meeting's commencement, an introduction to another person or the closing of a major business deal.  It is an identity, leaves a lasting impression that can either make or break a situation.  There is a certain art form to a good handshake because of nuances and etiquette observed.  However, these particular details to the handshake leave many people confused and could lead them to do an inappropriate, or worse, a disrespectful handshake to a potential client, business venture, or employer.  The following article will offer the basic steps and a guideline to performing a proper handshake that are used in most business and formal settings.

Extend the Right Arm

This is the first phase and signals the engagement and intent of making the handshake.  If standing, extend the right arm until parallel to the floor with the elbow slightly bent.  If sitting, be sure to stand up before extending the arm as a sign of respect.  Furthermore along the lines of respect, always extend the right hand, and never the left because some cultures consider it a major sign of disrespect using the left hand.

Tilt Hand with the Palm Up

This is a very small detail, and is more psychological, but the act of having the palm up is a sign of service and respect for the person.  Trust and respect are very important to gain when establishing relationships, and making this slight adjustment in the handshake’s form will greatly increase the chances of conveying these messages.  Think of the scene in Aladdin where the hero reaches his hand out to Princess Jasmine and asks, “Do you trust me?”

Do You Trust Me?
Credit: Disney's Aladdin

Making Contact

Here it is; human contact and the moment where the outstretched hand is grasped.  Palm to palm contact is made, wrapping the fingers around the opposite side of the thumb.  There is some difficulty in gauging how firm the grasp and the grip should be, as shown by the nick names given for terribly gripped handshakes that are too limp, like the dead fish or too strong like the bone crusher.  The message that needs to be communciated is of warmth, comfort, and most importantly trust.

The Shake and the Eyes

 The Shake and the Eyes

The actual shake itself should not take longer than three seconds, and most importantly, while the shake is occurring, eye contact is crucial and looking into a person’s eyes is a great form of non-verbal communication.  Eye contact can display a high level of self-confidence, to seal the deal at a job interview or even empathy for those times requiring sincerity and kindness of heart.  The old saying holds true for this point, “the eyes never lie.”

The Eyes Never Lie(112645)

The Release

The Release

In some cultures, it is customary that hands are held clasped together for a little while longer after the end of the shake, but in most North American settings it will be ok to disengage the hands at the end of the shake.  Usually, slackening the grip of the hand will result in the other person releasing their grip which will result in the end of the handshake.

Quick Tips

Understand Cultural Differences

Shaking hands is a commonly accepted practice all over the world.  The guide lines provided above are typical for North Americans and depending on the culture and the people being met, will need some slight changes to the handshake itself.  Be sure to research traditions and etiquette ahead of time so that the handshake is proper to the setting.


What to do about Sweaty Palms

There is a possibility that nerves could start to kick in and the palms begin to start sweating.   A trick to use to avoid shaking hands with sweaty palms is to keep a handkerchief in a front pocket that is easily accessible by the right hand.  Before the handshake begins and introductions are being done, make a smooth grasp for the handkerchief inside the pocket with the sweaty palm.  This is enough time to wipe off most of the sweat to proceed with a relatively dry and successful handshake.


Remeber the Color of their Eyes

Sometimes the conversation could already be well under way and there is a challenge to keep track of how much time has elapsed since the beginning of the handshake.  Consider when the handshake is occurring to try remembering the color of their eyes.  This will make sure that eye contact is being conducted, and will also avoid any awkward or lingering hand holding.


Proper Hand Grooming

This tip is also for general hand grooming and hygiene.  Do not use your teeth to try to even out your nails if they don’t look evenly filed, or chew on hangnail to get rid of them.  This will most likely cause the hand to start bleeding and depending on what part of the finger’s skin tears, stopping the bleeding will take some time.  Think of formal gathering or a business situation, where appearance and first impressions are vastly important.  It does not set off a good first impression when the first thing that people will be seeing is a hand with bleeding fingers being extended towards them.  Try to get a manicure to have the nails professionally cleaned and possibly even polished to give the hands the extra care that they need.