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7 Tips on Proper Handshake Etiquette

Make a Good First Impression

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Making a good first impression is essential in many social and business situations, so learn the proper way to shake hands. This gives you the opportunity to establish your friendliness and accessibility, whether you are meeting your neighbors or starting a new job. Practice with friends or family members before you start shaking the hands of strangers. Remember that people often initially judge you by your handshake, so make sure it shows your confidence and pleasant personality.

Occasions you will need to shake hands:

  • Initial introduction
  • Job interview
  • Seeing someone you haven’t seen in a long time
  • Greeting guests when you are the host or hostess
  • Greeting a host or hostess when you are the guest
  • Saying goodbye to a friend or business associate
  • Whenever someone else extends his or her hand

1. Know when to initiate the handshake.

Bromance
Nick David / Taxi / Getty Images

The person in a higher position of authority or age should be the first one to extend a hand. For example, if you are interviewing for a job, the interviewer should be the one to take the lead. When meeting future in-laws, the father-in-law should start the handshake.

If you make a mistake and initiate it, don’t withdraw your hand because that would be rude. Always follow through with a handshake. Smile and continue with the introduction. Don’t apologize.

2. Stand and look the other person in the eye before shaking hands.

If you are sitting, rise before extending your hand. This shows respect and puts you on the same level as the other person. Make eye contact and offer a sincere smile to show that you are happy to be where you are.

Be still and face the other person to prevent giving the impression that you are in a hurry to get away. If you are walking, try to stop, turn, and face the other person, unless it creates an awkward situation.

3. Offer a greeting before and during the handshake.

If your palms are damp, you can delay extending your hand if you introduce yourself while blotting your palm on the side of your slacks or skirt. Your greeting should include his or her name and a pleasantry, such as, “It’s so nice to meet you, Ms. Jones.” If you have more nice things to say, include them at this time, but don’t go overboard.

In order to remember the other person’s name, you might want to say it several times during the conversation: once during the initial handshake, shortly afterward, and again while shaking his or hand before you part ways. This will make a very strong, positive impression because people like knowing you care enough to remember their names.

4. Your handshake should be firm but not crushing.

You don’t want to offer a limp hand because it gives the impression of weakness. However, this does not mean you should crush the other person’s hand. Be firm but not overpowering. If the other person offers a limp hand, give a gentle squeeze. This can be a cue for him or her to grip more firmly.

5. The handshake should be approximately two to five seconds in duration.

Most people prefer shorter handshakes. Be observant and follow the lead of the other person, particularly if he or she is in a superior position to you in business or social position.

If the other person continues holding onto your hand longer than five seconds, politely withdraw your hand. Maintain eye contact and a pleasant expression afterward to maintain a positive interaction.

6. Be aware of your other hand.

Most people use their right hands, unless they have a reason to use the left. Ideally, your left hand should be visible and unclenched. Don’t have your left hand in your pocket because this appears defensive. In most business situations, you shouldn’t use your left hand to touch the other person’s arm or cup his or her hand. However, in a personal setting, you may.

7. Shake hands in an up-and-down motion.

The handshake shouldn’t go back and forth or side to side. Don’t pump the other person’s hand more than three times, or the greeting may become very uncomfortable.
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