Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Handshake Is Worth A Thousand Words

Forget about the picture, one handshake is all you need to get a good reading into the person inside. The proof was in the pudding during a recent encounter at a yogurt shop just last week. While in line, I happened to notice a guy with big muscles and sunglasses on top of his head. I was wondering what the was doing stopping for yogurt in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. Did he have a job? Did he have a family? I was there legitimately getting yogurt for my children. Mint chip, their favorite.

As I was leaving, I spotted a fellow mom that I know from our children's school and stopped to say hello. While we were speaking, I noticed that the guy had come over to the table to sit down. It turns out he and the mom were there together! She was kind enough to introduce me and so I extended my hand because that is what a lady is supposed to do. Little did I know I was about to receive the most intense bone cruncher of a handshake that I have yet to encounter!! So tight was the squeeze across my knuckles that I actually let out an EEEEEEKK!!!

I've talked about the bone cruncher in my classes a hundred times, but I had never felt one firsthand. It hurts!!! For me, this guy's horrific handshake was the nail in the coffin. He could have been a gazillionaire and it wouldn't have mattered in the least. Everything about him screamed wrong. I could spot it from a mile away. The lesson here: don't be a negligent when it comes to handshaking. Take the time to get it right. Here is the skinny on all you need to know about handshaking with a few important factoids to boot!

Handshaking 101
The most universal gesture for greeting another is with the handshake. It may be the first contact we have with someone new and our handshake really says a lot about who we are. The idea is to bring people in by shaking their hands, not repel them. To shake hands properly, extend your right hand. The palm should be facing sideways with the thumb up and the fingers extended away from you. When you shake you want to make sure you are meeting hands web-to-web (the area between your index finger and thumb). The whole arm should not move, only the forearm from the elbow down. Shake with two smooth pumps and then release. Your grip should be firm, not too strong and not dangling like a limp fish.

Common Mistakes
The Wet Fish - This is the type of handshake where the person touches only the tips of your fingers. This handshake feels a bit distant and aloof as if the person isn't invested in meeting you.
*The Bone Cruncher - This is the type of handshake where it literally feels as if the person is crunching the bones in your hand. This handshake makes you feel as if the person has something to prove or that they are trying to wield their strong power over you.
*The Thumb Pincher - This is the type of handshake where the person presses down too firmly with their thumb and gets you right in that sensitive pressure point. The person offering this type of handshake is perceived as nervous or a bit uncomfortable.
*The Endless Handshake - This is the type of handshake that seems to go on forever where the person has absolutely no clue when to let go. The person who offers this handshake appears overly enthusiastic and a bit too eager.
The Business ArenaA strong emphasis is placed on a firm handshake because it speaks loudly about credibility, confidence and professionalism. Make sure every meeting begins and ends with a handshake. In a professional setting, it doesn’t matter who offers a hand first, however, the person who extends a hand first typically has an advantage because it shows initiative and is perceived as being in control.

Hostile Anyone?Neglecting to shake another person's hand is considered one of the most rude offenses. There is nothing worse than extending your hand for a handshake and having it rejected by the other person, no matter what the reason. I recently witnessed one man neglect another man's handshake by refusing to extend his own hand and instead extending the hand of his son! Unless you have the Swine flu, Whooping Cough or some other contagious infection or disease, always accept an offer to shake hands. If you are particularly worried about germs, you can always high tail it to the bathroom to disinfect or do a Silkwood rub down with the Purell.

For Your Eyes Only
A handshake means nothing without making good eye contact and flashing those pearly whites. In the U.S., a tremendous amount of emphasis is placed on eye contact. It is a sign of respect. When shaking hands, maintain good eye contact throughout, display a natural smile and give your undivided attention to the person making them feel as if they are the only person in the room.

Just the Facts
Ladies First - In a social setting, a lady should always initiate the handshake because a man should never presume that a lady wishes to make physical contact of any kind.
*Stop Signals - If you happen to encounter an endless handshake, simply release the tension of your grip. This will send a non-verbal signal that the handshake has officially ended.
*The Upper Hand - The person who extends their hand first is perceived to be the most confident and have control of the situation.
*Stand & Deliver - Unless physically unable, a person always stands for a handshake. It is a sign of deference.
*Sweaty Palms - Suffering from sweaty palms may ruin a perfectly good handshake. An easy remedy is to carry a cloth that can absorb sweat in your pocket or purse. Gently touch the cloth before shaking somebody’s hands. For events or parties where one is expected to shake a lot of hands, try rubbing some unscented antiperspirant on your palms prior to the engagement.

Have you ever encountered a person with a lousy handshake? Do you know someone who absolutely refuses to shake hands altogether? Do you prefer fist pumps or hugs to handshaking? Share your thoughts. We'd love to hear from you!

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