Shaking hands

How good are you at shaking hands? Never really thought about it? Well, stop and take a moment to consider the proper handshake – a gesture that is both symbolic and gender neutral.

Growing up alongside the rest of America’s heroes on the streets of Detroit, I learned very early that maintaining eye contact (taken down here in Atlanta to be “mean-mugging”) and knowing how to deliver a dominant handshake (or the upward head not where appropriate) can make the difference between being harassed and respected… or even just left alone. Especially when you’re shorter than the average human as I am.

To this day, when I shake hands, I always squeeze a little harder than the other person. But that’s 40 years of urban living talking, not business etiquette.

For you, whether or not you are actually aware of it, the way you shake hands says a lot about you. So let me share with you five secrets of a great, memorable, ALPHA handshake. 


Secret #1: Skin Contact

A good handshake requires a significant amount of skin-on-skin contact. Unless you are royalty, the fingertips-only handshake is unacceptable. It communicates superiority. So make sure there is enough skin-to-skin contact in your handshake technique by making sure three key factors are in play:
1. Your palms touch
2. The webs of your fingers make contact with the other person’s hand 
3. You hold the handshake for no less than three seconds


Secret #2: Intensity

Few social gestures are more off-putting than a limp handshake. Don’t be that guy. A handshake is a deliberate act of respect so invest in and commit to the handshake. Let your handshake be firm, but not too hard. Let it be gentle, but not wimpy. A good rule of thumb is to try to match the intensity of your handshake with the person whose hand you are shaking.


Secret #3: Cultural Awareness

In today’s global market, you have to start studying business etiquette beyond your borders. Not everyone you meet will be accustomed to shaking hands. Political, cultural and religious differences give varied meaning to the act of shaking hands, particularly between two people of different genders or differing social status. Be respectful and tolerant. Our way of socializing is not the right way, it’s not the wrong way. It’s one of many ways.



Secret #4: Hand Position

A good handshake is symmetrical. Extend your hand with your thumb pointed toward the sky. Your thumb should never be turned to the side with your palm down. Such a handshake communicates dominance. Neither should you extend your hand with your palm up. It communicates submission. Also only maintain contact as long as the other person does. You want to be careful you do not send the wrong message.


Secret #5: Cleanliness

If you know you are meeting someone new, make sure your hands are clean. Not just clean, but clean and dry. No sweaty, clammy palms. Most people will be gracious enough not to wipe their palms on their pants after shaking your hand out of concern for hurting your feelings, but first impressions stick. Keep your nails groomed. If you are sick, let the other person know and refrain from shaking hands. They will appreciate the heads up and remember your compassion.

Images:, the Australian Government’s dedicated business website – The Top Ten Bad Business Handshakes.