The Art of The Handshake

Know when to initiate the handshake

Always be the first to extend a hand. For example, if you are greeting a customer, the sales person should be the one to take the lead.

If you make a mistake and don’t initiate it, don’t withdraw your hand because that would be rude. Always follow through with a handshake. Smile and continue with the introduction. Don’t apologize.

Stand and look the other person in the eye before shaking hands

If you are sitting, rise before extending your hand. This shows respect and puts you on the same level as the other person. Make eye contact and offer a sincere smile to show that you are happy to be where you are.

Be still and face the other person to prevent giving the impression that you are in a hurry to get away. If you are walking, try to stop, turn, and face the other person, unless it creates an awkward situation.

Offer a greeting before and during the handshake

If your palms are damp, you can delay extending your hand if you introduce yourself while blotting your palm on the side of your slacks or skirt. Your greeting should include his or her name and a pleasantry, such as, “It’s so nice to meet you, Ms. Jones.” If you have more nice things to say, include them at this time, but don’t go overboard.

In order to remember the other person’s name, you might want to say it several times during the conversation: once during the initial handshake, upon them leaving, or closing a sale.

Your handshake should be firm but not crushing

You don’t want to offer a limp hand because it gives the impression of weakness. However, this does not mean you should crush the other person’s hand. Be firm but not overpowering. If the other person offers a limp hand, give a gentle squeeze. This can be a cue for him or her to grip more firmly.

The handshake should be approximately two to four seconds in duration

Most people prefer shorter handshakes. Be observant and follow the lead of the other person, particularly if he or she is in a superior position to you in business or social position.

If the other person continues holding onto your hand longer than five seconds, politely withdraw your hand. Maintain eye contact and a pleasant expression afterward to maintain a positive interaction.

Be aware of your other hand

Most people use their right hands unless they have a reason to use the left. Ideally, your left hand should be visible and unclenched. Don’t have your left hand in your pocket because this appears defensive. Do not use your left hand to touch the other person’s arm or cup his or her hand.

Shake hands in an up-and-down motion

The handshake shouldn’t go back and forth or side to side. Don’t pump the other person’s hand more than three times, or the greeting may become very uncomfortable.