The Handshake Handbook

By   |   February 13th, 2018   |   0 Comments

handshakeBy Traci Via, Agriculture Future of America


While there are more than 6,500 languages around the world, body language is the most universal. We all speak body language. The handshake is probably the oldest and most used body language phrase, if you will, in the world. In fact, archaeological ruins depict soldiers shaking hands in the 5th-century BC. Some believe the origination of the handshake was a sign of peace.


Today, the handshake is used to greet, meet, congratulate, confirm an agreement and is a sign of good sportsmanship. The purpose of a handshake is to convey trust, respect, balance.


There’s a lot of science in a simple handshake: the pressure, angle, what you do with your other hand, and other expectations, especially within another culture. Here are just a few hand shake tips.


How to Handshake: a Guide

Know the Cultural Cues


In some cultures, where a handshake isn’t a typical greeting, it can be awkward and confusing. So, it’s important to do your homework on body language when traveling to another country. You’re visiting their country, so certainly follow their lead.


Putting on the Pressure


What’s the right amount of squeeze? A handshake should be firm but not painful. On the contrary, a limp handshake gives an impression of weakness.


Well, this is Awkward


Keep it brief. A handshake should be approximately two to five seconds long. Follow the lead of the other person, particularly if he or she is in a superior position.


I Don’t Know What to Do with My Hands


When it comes to the free hand, there are a lot of different possible positions. Cupping from above shows dominance as you are trapping their hand between yours. Using the free hand and cupping from beneath, a 2-handed shake, shows sincerity and desire for closeness. Gripping the upper arm while shaking hands is also supposed to show togetherness but because this posture is often used by politicians it is losing its luster in the business world.


You Go First, No You


Knowing who initiates is an important part of the handshake. The person who has the position of authority should be the first one to extend a hand. For example, if you are interviewing for a job or internship, the interviewer should be the one to take the lead.


Take a Stand


If you are seated and someone standing extends their hand, rise before taking their hand, meet their eyes and offer a smile. By using their name, you will leave them with a memorable handshake.


Remember, much like the spoken language, body language can easily be misunderstood. Do your best to assess the other person’s comfort level at all times and respond accordingly. While it might be tempting to block an awkward encounter out of your memory immediately, take at least a brief moment to reflect on what you could have done differently to make the situation more comfortable, especially for the other individual. If you feel the other individual has made a handshake faux pas, make sure you evaluate the interaction based on the context of the conversation and other body language cues rather than judging the whole interaction on the one incident. It could be that they never had the opportunity to read a handbook like this one!


Handshakes and body language are an important part of networking. You’ll continue honing your skills throughout your career. By taking the time to learn from each experience, you will set yourself up for continued success.


Put that handshake to work: apply for a job on

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