The Importance of a Handshake

January 31, 2013
For centuries, the handshake has been a social custom practiced by men and women of all status that signifies a mutual respect for one another in both business and social arenas. Although the handshake’s origin in unknown, we do know it’s been used as a nonverbal form of communication in the past, much the same way it’s used today.

Socially, the handshake was, and still is, used to greet one another in friendship and openness. Throughout history, handshakes were instrumental in sealing business deals of all kinds. Peace was declared, nations were formed, marriages arranged… all by the blessing of a handshake; a handshake that was as solid and binding as any of today’s contracts. And although today’s business dealings require more than a handshake to honor the intentions of men, a handshake still “represents” the mutual agreement and promise between two people.

Although times have greatly changed, the premise of a handshake is still the same. All day long, men are shaking hands with each other (and women) for reasons that keep this world turning. Whether it’s a job interview or connecting with old friends, handshakes are an important part of society that solidify relationships and agreements. Today’s handshakes may not hold quite the same value and influence as those from yesteryear, but their importance, especially in business, warrants all men possess the ability to execute a proper handshake.

The importance of a handshake cannot be overrated. Even though a handshake is a nonverbal form of communication, don’t be fooled by thinking “it” doesn’t speak volumes about the guy doing the shaking. Understanding the psychology behind a handshake, and knowing how to implement an appropriate one, can mean the difference between getting the job and not. People make decisions about our personality and character based on this simple gesture all the time, which is why it’s imperative that men of all ages and walks of life master the art of handshaking.

In today’s modern world, there are generally three different scenarios that require handshaking. Although it’s crucial to demonstrate an assertive handshake no matter whose hand you’re shaking, there are different criteria for each.

Business Handshake

Whether it’s a job interview, business meeting, or interaction with a business associate – this is the handshake you want to get right, since so much is riding on it. The professional arena is definitely one where you’ll want to come across as a confident and trustworthy man, who communicates sincerity and professionalism. Your handshake will reflect that, provided it’s done correctly.

  • While making eye contact, extend your arm with your hand stretched out in front of you with the thumb straight up.
  • Slide your hand into the other person’s hand until your webs touch. The “web” is the loose, fleshy skin located between the thumb and forefinger. This action should bring your palms together.
  • Grasp firmly, but not so much the other guy hollers “uncle!” Seriously, put enough muscle behind it that no one will view you as passive, weak, or worse yet, intimidated. The “dead fish” shake gives the impression of disinterest, which is the last impression you want at the office. However, gripping too tightly, especially as a way of showing dominance, can seem confrontational and challenging, so definitely save your strength for the gym.
  • Pump twice, meaning shake your hand up and down two times only.
  • Release your hand only after the other person releases his or hers. Don’t stress – the average handshake lasts from 1 to 3 seconds, and since no one wants to be caught in a lengthy hand-lock at work, wait it out. Waiting it out gives the other guy respect… which can be very advantageous on the job or during a job interview.


The ideal business handshake is one that conveys an open, friendly attitude, while sending a message of confidence, importance, and interest… in other words Alpha Male!


Shaking Hands with Women

Now more than ever, women shake hands, particularly in the business world. Many guys are unsure of how to handle this situation and often find it very awkward; resulting in a clumsy encounter. Gentlemen, you’ll be happy to know there is no longer a difference! Gone are the days of the “chick or fingertip shake”. Shake a woman’s hand the same way you would a man’s. No need to wait for her to extend her hand first, either. Just jump in and do it with the same level of energy and enthusiasm you’d shake a man’s hand with; just possibly with a little less force. Shaking a woman’s hand is as acceptable in the social arena, as it is in the professional world, so go for it.

Some women prefer the double palm squeeze, opposed to the standard handshake. If she chooses this method, she will lead the way by extending both her hands, while reaching for yours, so relax and breathe. Typically, older women in social environments will opt for the double palm, so chances are it will never happen on the job.


Shaking Hands with Family and Close Friends

All bets are off when it comes to shaking hands with those close to us. You can do the traditional handshake, but there’s no need for the formality. Hugs, pats on the back, secret handshakes, and bumping elbows are all acceptable gestures among friends, so have fun with this one!

Handshakes are a gateway to our success, both professionally and socially. Often the first step of an introduction, and the last parting gesture we do; handshakes have the capacity to tell others what words cannot. Make certain your handshake tells the world what you want it to know about you!

by Aaron Marino

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