The Art and the Power of a Great Handshake

I believe in networking and going to networking events.  I go to them, I meet people, we exchange business cards, and we learn a little about each other.  But before we even know each others names, typically one of us will offer up a handshake.

Like it or not our handshakes have evolved into the creation of our first impressions.  People still size each other up by what we look like and people still make judgments based on this relatively small bit of information so remember to wear your smile. But the Handshake is the first physical contact and it does make an impression.

Most people I find are just ok in this area.  Few are exceptional at it and some are just bad at it.  Here is my list of what a “Bad” handshake looks and feels like.  I personally really do not like any of these.

  • The Dead Fish:  This is the handshake that is offered up to you either limp or barely alive.  Its as if the person offering this assumes just allowing you to touch there hand is good enough.  This has become more and more rare but it still happens.
  • The Strength Test:  Some people feel every opportunity to shake hands is a chance to demonstrate how strong they are. Growing trends of women seem to be trying this. Hilarious.
  • The Pumper:  This person grabs your hand and starts pumping it up and down until they finish saying what they have to say.  Why?
  • The Quick Pumper:  This is when the person will grab your hand and give it one quick vigorous pump up and down and a quick release.  My grandmother taught me that the person who shakes hands like this is not your friend and I believe my grandmother.

And the worst of the worst…

  • The Hand Wrestler:  This person gets a good grip of your hand with a big smile on his face and then immediately twists your hand so that his hand is on top of yours as he shakes it.  With the back of his hand facing the sky while the back of your hand faces the ground.  I know a guy here in charlotte that does that all the time.  I finally asked him why and he has gotten some bad advice many years ago that shaking hands like that helps him to quickly get the “upper hand” on people.  For what?!
  • The Tug of War:  This is handshake where the other person gets a good grip of your hand and pulls you toward them, knocking you slightly off balance.  Another victim of bad advice, another attempt to gain an upper hand.

I have never completed any of the above mentioned handshakes with an improved feeling about the person that offered up any of these type of handshakes. In fact my personal feeling about the person that victimized me with any of the above mentioned handshakes was simply not good.


How to give a great handshake.

My sources are my late grandmother “Louella McNeill” Roger Dawson author of “The art of Persuasion” and my own trial and error.

  • Think of it as giving the person a full body hug but only using your hand to hug there hand.  Embrace the other persons hand with yours.
  • No pumping.
  • Look into their eyes and make a mental note of that person’s eye color. Ex: light brown, dark brown, green, blue, or hazel. By making note of eye color that forces your own eyes to focus and sort of twinkle.
  • It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul.  So the thoughts you’re thinking while shaking hands will shine through your eyes.  You should as fast as possible figure out something about the other person that you like. There clothes, hair, shoes, associations, or something.  If you’re shaking a persons hand thinking about how much money your going to make off this person that will shine through your eyes and they will not be able to trust you or barely even like you.  However, if you’re shaking hands and thinking that you like this person, that too will shine through your eyes and you will be more liked.

Lastly:  First impressions are lasting impressions and the first physical impression is made with a handshake more often than not.  Make your first physical impression memorable.  Follow these tips and enjoy the response.

Brian K McNeill
Very Personal Sales Coaching
919 345 4893