5 Tips for Improving Your Handshake

Close up of a handshake between two men wearing business suits.

Handshakes are a basic form of nonverbal communication. (Image: via Flickr)

Handshakes are a basic form of nonverbal communication. Shaking hands is an interactive body language revealing how the other person sees the environment, themselves, and you. For example, handshakes are crucial in making a good first impression or giving a goodbye message. 

In simple terms, your handshake can influence how others perceive you. Therefore, you want your handshake to communicate nice things about you, whether shaking hands with a friend or meeting a potential client.

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That is why it is essential to learn and understand how to shake hands properly. Luckily, with this article, you will learn the history and the etiquette you need to keep in mind while shaking hands with others.

The history of handshakes

Thanks to the ancient texts and archeological ruins showing handshakes, or the dexiosis, it proves that this kind of practice already existed during the 5th century BCE/B.C. Shaking hands is a popular tradition and was considered an art in ancient Greece during that period. 

One particular theory says that handshakes symbolize peace. That is because you don’t hold any weapon whenever you try to shake hands with someone. But in today’s time, a simple handshake already has multiple purposes. 

A handshake can be used for a greeting, congratulating, parting, expressing gratitude, or concluding an agreement or sporting event. Of course, you can also see some handshakes in sports, which usually pertain to good sportsmanship. But generally, the primary purpose of shaking hands is to show respect, goodwill, and equality.

Two men shake hands while a group of people stand and watch.
A handshake can be used for a greeting, congratulating, parting, expressing gratitude, or concluding an agreement or sporting event. (Image: Andrey Popov via Dreamstime)

Handshake etiquette

Some may think a handshake is not something to spend time thinking about and that it’s a simple thing to do. But no, it’s not. Although a professional handshake may take time to master, surely it will be worth it as it can help you create a good impression. And with that, below are some points of etiquette you need to consider for your handshakes.

1. The correct grip pressure

Your grip pressure is one of the most important things you should consider when handshaking someone. Ensuring that your grip is more on the firm and not the flimsy side may reflect your personality. Aside from not wanting to crush the other person’s hand, you want them to think you are assertive and not aggressive based on your grip pressure.

2. Don’t forget to smile

Every time you meet someone for the first time and try to shake their hands, make an effort to start it with a simple smile before anything else. That way, you can connect with the other person before shaking hands. They might view you as someone pleasant and open type of individual. 

Imagine that if you try to shake hands with someone without smiling, it can look like you are trying too hard or threatening them. And that is something you don’t want others to remember you for.

3. Proper hygiene is a must

One simple thing that is most commonly forgotten and overlooked is keeping proper hygiene of your hands. It is best if you are clean at all times. Not only with what you wear, but also with your hands, particularly when shaking hands.

When you plan to shake someone’s hand, your hands should not be dirty or greasy. If you are someone suffering from sweaty palms, try to wipe them on something before shaking hands. But if it’s the other way around, if the other person is the one who is experiencing sweaty hands, don’t wipe your hands right away. This may seem disrespectful to that person.

Keeping eye contact with the other person is something you should remember when shaking hands. (Image: Narith Thongphasuk via Dreamstime)

4. Maintain eye contact

Keeping eye contact with the other person is something you should remember when shaking hands. So as soon as you reach out your arm, start making eye contact. And maintain that throughout the handshake.

If you try to look away or ignore the eye contact of the other person, especially when introducing yourself, they might misinterpret it. Others may see you as arrogant, rude, or even a snob. And that’s how influential eye contact is when it comes to shaking hands.

5. Left or right hand?

Typically, you can use your right hand when shaking hands. But there are instances when your right hand is injured, or the other person only has a left hand; then you can use your left hand. Additionally, whether you use your right or left hand, ensure the other hand is still visible. Hiding or clenching can be interpreted as a sign of hostility or malice by the other person.

Handshaking with two hands can be seen as something pushy and artificially friendly by others. And that is another reason why you need to keep your left hand on your side.

How you shake hands reveals your character

Shaking hands is only a tiny part of a direct conversation, but this is a standard method to express confidence and politeness in certain situations. As a result, practicing and learning the art of the handshake is essential to appear respectful and confident in a business context or other cases. With the guide above, you can now confidently shake hands with other people like a professional.

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