Mastering the handshake is a crucial element to connecting with others. Some never get the hang of it, and those who do end up making great connections; nailing it every time. So let’s get down to the peanut butter and jelly of it all.
Did you know when you shake hands with someone, you awaken three out of your five senses? This is a big deal! Think about it. You touch, see and hear during this activity. Of course, the touch is the actual handshake; the physical contact you have with someone else. Sight is what you do while shaking hands – your facial expression and eye contact. And then there’s hearing; the words coming out of your mouth during this millisecond of an event.
Make no mistake about it, conquering these three senses take practice and discipline. But once you get it….you’ll get it! Here are some things you need to know about these senses:
Touch. It begins with the offer. Extending your reach while remaining inviting and interested is the key. I’ve experienced many handshakes over the years, but here are the ones I find having more impact than others.
1. The sweaty palm. This gives the impression you are a nervous wreck. Not to mention, it’s….well, disgusting. Being nervous is natural, but if you can’t help it and your hands get sweaty, take precaution before going into a situation. Focus on the good possibilities, not the negative. Try going to the restroom before entering the meeting, wash your hands and keep a spare napkin in your pocket or purse. If you are going on an interview, arrive early and bring a newspaper. This is a great way to take your mind off the meeting and also sneak a wipe at a moments notice. If you are wearing pants, try having your right hand in your pocket to wipe just before the handshake. No one will know the difference.
2. Light-no grip. This can either mean you are unsure of yourself, not interested or germ phobic. Either way, it questions your character. I’ve had some barely touching handshakes that drive me wild! The one’s where people use only two or three fingers, seriously? I find this rather offensive. It gives the impression you are not interested in connecting. Now who wants to be on the receiving end of that? Stop it.
3. Bone crusher. This screams, please someone help me! A forceful shake can go either way. You can end up close to arm-wrestling or actually hurting someone. Neither of these are good. If your muscles are bulging and veins popping when you are handshaking, it’s too rough. Some view a harsh handshake as overcompensation for some sort of insecurity or attempting to intimidate. Is that the message you want to send?
4. Firm. I believe a firm handshake is great for every situation. It shows you are confident. Not too much and not too little. It also says a lot about your character. Firm shakes let the receiver know you are serious about your personal brand, you are present in the moment and you are interested in making the connection. Even when the receiver’s handshake is light, sweaty or bone-cracking, the firm handshake creates the balance.
Sight. Eye contact is how you make an emotional connection. It’s how you capture someone’s attention from the very start. Not doing so is hard to overcome. When you look someone in the eyes you are showing them they have your full attention, even if it’s for half of a second. It matters. They matter. Looking anywhere else but directly in their eyes is an insult. You hold the power here. You can either direct their attention to you or send them elsewhere, wondering what you are thinking.Don’t leave room for guessing. Be direct.
Hearing. If it’s your first time meeting someone and you haven’t been introduced, say your name first, then ask them theirs. Follow up with a polite comment such as “Nice to meet you.” or “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”. These are great starts when meeting new people. When engaging with someone you already know, try using words like “How are you?” (remember to actually wait for a response) and “nice to see you again”. These words are respectful and courteous. Polite words give reassurance. If your handshake or eye contact are lacking, what you say will re-focus their attention back to you.
In sum, never approach handshaking as a formality. People can sense that. Look your contact directly in the eyes, smile and say something pleasant. Yes, you need to do this at the same time, every time.