Thursday, 29 August 2013

How to Shake Hands like a Man!

To shake or not to shake, is a question that panics us every day, and that’s before we even step near a urinal. Shaking hands is not as easy as it should be, and there is a minefield of mistakes that we can - and do - make every time we reluctantly extend a hand.

Why do we shake hands?

The custom is believed to date back to around 50 BC when men would shake hands to show that they were not armed. Nowadays it’s seen as a gesture of mutual respect, forgiving and understanding.

Why does a good handshake matter?

We all know how important first impressions are, and in most formal or professional situations a handshake will be your first impression. The last thing you want to do is make your fellow shaker feel creeped out or uncomfortable.

Do make eye contact

Show a little confidence. Some eye contact goes a long way, so initiate this during the hand shake, although try to avoid focusing too closely on the eyes so as to miss the hand. If you feel worried about eye contact, look at the nose, it will give off the impression that you are making eye contact, without having to do so.

Do introduce yourself first

The handshake should be seen as part of a process within the protocol of meeting someone. The introductions (whether done by you or a third party) should come first, followed by the all-important hand shake (with greetings). Then you can commence small-talk and press on with anything important.

Do stand up

Where possible, if the other person is standing, stand before you offer your hand or take theirs. If you stay seated you risk coming across as nonchalant to their presence, or even downright lazy. 

Do smile

Convey confidence and show that you’re not taking yourself too seriously by combining your handshake with a warm smile. But don’t force it, you don’t want to look overly happy that you’re shaking hands, because that’s just weird.

Do know when to break it off

Don’t shake for too long; two shakes is enough, three is pushing it, four is too many and five is holding hands. In most situations you can even get away with one shake.

Don’t have wet hands

There’s nothing worse than shaking hands with someone who has wet hands, it just feels dirty. Keep your hands dry at all times, you never know when a handshake may be about to happen. If you suffer from sweaty palms, don’t be afraid to give them a wipe on your trousers before you go in for the shake.

Don’t use two hands

Known as the politician’s handshake, it’s when you invite the non-shaking hand to the handshake party to gently touch the already-touching hands. It’s a very personal touch to the handshake, so don’t even consider it, unless you’re a politician or a grandparent.

Don’t be too firm

It is believed among men that you need to have a firm handshake to portray a sense of confidence and even dominance, but often too much importance is put on this. More important than having a firm handshake is being sure that you don’t hurt your shaking partner, and you don’t want to be trying to assert dominance on someone with higher status than you, say, a potential employer. Know the difference between firm and forceful and certainly avoid the childish ‘crush the fingers game’.

Don’t be too limp

At the same time, you need to avoid a limp handshake. One Twitter user told me of a handshake with a teacher that was “like shaking a wet lettuce”. It takes two to make a successful handshake, so put some effort in. 

Don’t shake left handed

Even if you are left handed, most people are not; shake with right hands only or you could be faced with an incredibly awkward right versus left stand-off. It can’t be easy for lefties, one left-handed Twitter user said “Being left handed sucks. How can I assert my manliness when everyone always leads with the right? Instant strength disadvantage”. But a righty who had been on the receiving end of a left handed shake described it as “definitely the worst experience of my life”.

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