The importance of the handshake

ID-10062570Nixon and Mao. Reagan and Gorbachev. De Klerk and Mandela. Rabin and Arafat. The importance of the handshake should not be overlooked. Throughout history the handshake has been used as a powerful symbol for peace. From originally showing that you come in peace and are unarmed (at least in that hand!) to today where it is the ultimate photoshot – used again and again to suggest a new era, a new political order or alliance and a way of reconciling from the past. It can show that two countries or two groups that have previously had no contact, through an action of physical contact, now have a new symbolic relationship.

In the increasingly digital world we live in, the handshake is still seen as a significant symbol in politics, diplomacy, and even business. In business deals and meetings shaking hands play a key role. A study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that a firm handshake can portray a sense of emotional expressiveness, openness, and confidence.

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association recorded that there was a positive link between a firm handshake and being hired at a job interview. The stronger and more confident the handshake, the better the impression.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that witnessing two other people shake hands triggers positive emotions. So even watching other people shake hands makes us feel rewarded.

Therefore a simple handshake can be a powerful symbol of peace, make us more employable and allows us to feel more rewarded and satisfied. Never underestimate the power of a handshake.

How to shake hands well

  1. Smile and look in the other person’s eyes. Eye contact and hand contact belong together. In fact eye contact comes first – otherwise you may find yourself offering your hand and it being spurned.
  2. Go in thumbs up and palm open (obviously – duh).
  3. Dont jerk your arm up and down (not back and forth) – slow and normal does it. Otherwise you will appear drunk, overexcited or juvenile. Or all three.
  4. Don’t have sweaty, moist palms – if your palms sweat buy a hankie or tissues. Otherwise you will be remembered for being the person to avoid – the one that made them wipe their hand dry on their shirt! This rule doesn’t apply after tennis or rugby.
  5. A firm handshake is good, a limp handshake is terrible. When I say firm I do not mean cutting off their blood supply to their fingers.
  6. Keep your hand straight – otherwise you may appear to be dominant or submissive.
  7. 2-4 seconds should do it. More than 5/6 seconds and you are being creepy and hitting on them! Adjust to them and be sensitive to them.
  8. Talk to the person you are meeting – if you already know them, use their name and greet them as if you mean it.
  9. Don’t whip your hand away as if you had just found our that they had an evil, mutating disease. Slow and natural.

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