Your first impression can sometimes come down to a good handshake.
Handshakes are one of the most common and essential greetings in the Western business world. They are essential for making a good impression, building your executive presence, and showing the traits of your personality.
In a handshaking study conducted at the University of Alabama, researchers discovered that a firm handshake was positively correlated with qualities of extraversion and expressiveness and that people with a good, firm handshake were less likely to be shy. In women, they specifically found that a firm handshake suggested an openness to experience.
The qualities of a good handshake
So what makes for a good handshake? University of Alabama researchers rated the handshake experience on eight characteristics: strength, grip, dryness, temperature, vigor, duration, eye contact, and texture.
They concluded to make a good first impression, the handshake had to be strong, long, warm, dry, and vigorous, with a complete grip and sustained eye contact.
How to shake hands to make a good impression
In “The Art of Handshaking,” Joe Navarro, an FBI veteran and body language expert, details six physical cues that make for a good handshake and a great first impression.
1. Make eye contact: Eye contact establishes trust. Looking away shows a lack of attention and will lead to a bad first impression.
2. Keep your hands dry: No one likes a soggy grip. Dry your hands before you shake. Navarro suggests using a handkerchief or simply wiping them on your trousers.
3. Make it firm — but not too firm: Shaking hands is not a contest of wills. The dominant handshake, where you apply too much pressure, is a bad way to make a good first impression. Often, it leaves a negative one.
4. Avoid the wrists: Don’t probe the wrists with your fingers. According to Navarro, some people do a probing handshake where that person presses their finger against your wrist. This often revolts people.
5. One hand only: Unless you’re a politician, shake with one hand only. Don’t cover a person’s hand with both of yours. Clasping both hands is too intimate, and people don’t like it. According to Navarro, most people don’t even like it when politicians do it, either.
6. Match Pressure: Show social intelligence and good manners. If you meet a person with a weaker handshake, Navarro suggests matching with equal pressure.
Bonus tip: Handshakes and greetings vary from country to country and culture to culture. Do your research. Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway has tips on business protocol and behavior in about sixty countries around the world.