Join Carol Kinsey Goman for an in-depth discussion in this video Ten key elements to shaking hands, part of Body Language for Leaders.
- Did you know that your handshake may be what someone remembers most about meeting you? That's because touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue. In fact a study on handshakes show that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. The researchers also found that people react to those with whom they shake hands by being more open and friendly. But be aware that people often make personality judgements based on the kind of handshake you have. I've seen a weak handshake mark someone as too timid for a sales position.
I've also noticed that the bonecrusher, that macho handshake, in which a person squeezes too tightly almost always gives the impression of being overbearing or insensitive. And when someone offers a straight arm handshake, creating more distance between him or her and the other person, it's evaluated as distrust or aloofness. For a perfect business handshake, here are 10 suggestions to keep in mind. First, stand up. You should always stand when being introduced to someone and when extending your hand.
You also want to make sure your right hand is free to shake hands, so shift your purse, briefcase, beverage, or cell phone to your left hand, so you're ready for action. Remember to make eye contact. When shaking hands, look directly into the other person's eyes. Direct eye contact at this moment leads to greater feelings of connection. Next, smile. When you smile it causes the other person automatically to smile in return. And due to a phenomenon known as facial feedback, where facial expressions are linked to their corresponding emotions, that return smile can actually make the other person feel happier.
Another great tip is to square off. Keep your body square to your counterpart, facing him or her fully. Next, offer your hand with the palm facing sideways. If you extend your hand with the palm facing up, it makes you look submissive. When your palm is facing down, or if you twist your hand downward during the handshake, it sends the message that you feel superior, because you've quite literally given yourself the upper hand. But when you offer your hand sideways, it sends a message of equality and collaboration.
Next, make sure you have palm-to-palm contact, and that the web of your hand, the skin between your thumb and first finger, touches the web of the other person's hand. Research with sales people indicates that if customers don't get this full palm contact, they may feel uncomfortable for the rest of the interaction, and respond by being less likely to buy. Be sure to shake hands firmly. Now this is especially true if you're a female. Women with a firm handshake make a more favorable impression and are judged to be confident and competent.
Another tip is to start talking before you let go of the other person's hand. "It's great to meet you," or "I'm so glad to be here." Finally, keep your eyes up. When you break away and step back, remember to keep your eyes level. When you look down, it's a submissive signal. And you want your final impression to be one of warmth and self-confidence. The great thing about practicing your handshake is you have so many opportunities to do so. Start with friends and family members, and try adding these key elements one at a time until you feel comfortable with all of them.
Soon it'll be second nature, and you'll be well on your way to having a perfect business handshake every time.