During the important first few minutes of a new relationship, a handshake is usually the only body contact between two people. It can communicate warmth, a genuine concern for the other person, and an image of either strength or gentleness. It can also communicate indifference and weakness. Developing a professional handshake is one of the most valuable business skills you can cultivate.
The message that you communicate with your handshake is determined by several factors.
Degree of Firmness- Your grip should be firm and friendly. A weak handshake is a really poor form of introduction, so you need to aim for something that portrays confidence but won’t hurt the other person. Be considerate if you are shaking hands with someone in a receiving line and has many more hands to shake, someone wearing a lot of rings, or someone who is obviously elderly and perhaps fragile.
Dryness of Hand- We all prefer to shake a hand that is dry, but some of us also sweat more than others. While you typically don’t want to obviously dry your hands before greeting someone, it is perfectly acceptable (and even expected) to wipe your hands on a napkin if you have been holding a cold glass or eating at a cocktail party.
Depth of Grip- A handshake should be completed palm to palm. Place your hand so that the web between your thumb and forefinger meets the web of the other person’s hand briefly. Your hands should remain perpendicular (straight up and down) to the ground. If your palm is facing up, this may be construed as a sign of submissiveness. If your palm is on top, it can be seen as a sign of aggressiveness. Avoid merely grasping fingers, which is a sign of weakness.
Duration of Grip -The perfect handshake lasts for about three seconds. You can gently pump once or twice but it is not necessary. Pull back your hand after that contact, even if you are still talking.
Eye Contact- In North America, we expect the person shaking our hand to make eye contact with us, but this varies from one culture to another.
To master the whole introduction process, make sure you have something to say as you shake hands. You don’t have to be witty; you can even use the old standard, “Pleased to meet you.” These few words can set the stage for the small talk that is often at the beginning of a new business relationship.