There is no relationship tool more widely used, more common and more effective than the handshake. A handshake can be used as a welcome greeting, to congratulate or to represent the binding of an agreement. Entrepreneurs, corporate executives and world leaders alike use the handshake daily to build relationships and succeed in their roles.
Business students across the industrialized world practice shaking hands in preparation for going out on their first job interviews. Those that best master the handshake are the ones that are not only employed before the others, but also get the best jobs. After all, when a company hires a business professional, they need that individual to be able to make a good first impressions with their clients, suppliers and other business partners.
Consequently, the handshake is the one single skill you can practice on and improve on quicker than any other skill and yet has the greatest ongoing impact on your success.
Think back at the different types of handshakes you’ve experienced. Like most individuals, you’ve probably come across the ‘dead fish’ handshake. You know when the other person sort of gives you their hand, but it is motionless, dead, cold and almost slimy in feel. It makes you either want to go wash your hand or ask, ‘can’t you be bothered putting a little effort into the shake?’
This particular style of greeting can be a real deal breaker both in business and personal relationships. How would you like to date or do business with someone who doesn’t put their effort in what they do or doesn’t think you’re important enough for them to focus on you?
On the other hand, what is more effective than someone who looks you in the eyes and firmly shakes your hand during a greeting or to close a deal?
As the President of MetroActive, Canada’s largest business networking organization, I have come across thousands of individuals over the last few years and have felt all kinds of handshakes. Like any seasoned business professional, I can usually tell how successful someone is by how they shake my hand, even if I have never met them before.
Here are 7 tips for giving a million dollar handshake:
1. Make sure your hand is dry and clean before shaking
2. Stand close enough to the other individual so that you’re not reaching too far out, but far enough that you have room to shake;
3. Look the other person in the eyes with an expression of interest;
4. Make sure you grasp the other person’s hand fully and not just at the fingertips. If you’re off centre at first try, don’t hesitate to reposition so that you can make the perfect connection;
5. Tighten your grip so that it can be felt firmly, but not too tight that it feels like you’re trying to dominate the other person;
6. Limit your movement to between three and five inches (seven to twelve centimeters);
7. Shake two or three times, no more.
Now that you know what to look for you can practice with a friend or partner. Having feedback from different people will help you refine your handshake so that you can achieve the exact message you want to portray to the other individual.
Be aware and focused on the intention or purpose of your handshake and practice the different types of handshakes you have for each purpose. For example, a handshake you would use on a date or in a social environment when meeting new friends will feel different that a handshake at a business networking event.
The components of the handshake don’t change, but how you execute them does. How much pressure should you apply when squeezing, when should you squeeze and for how long? How vigorously should you shake and for how long? How far should you stand from the other person? These questions and more address the influences and effectiveness of handshakes in different situations.
Practice your improved handshake when you meet new friends, go on a job interview or meet a prospective client. You will be surprised just how much of a difference a little practice can make in the impression you give when shaking hands.
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